29. A Digital Approach to Museum Maps

An example of a digital mapping tool, Mapbox Studio Classic.

An example of a digital mapping tool, Mapbox Studio Classic.

Everything happens at a time and a place. In a museum, that coordinate system can help keep a story straight, even if it is not at the forefront of a gallery. And when designing maps for museums, we should keep in mind how humanistic digital tools are — and how helpful they can be to museum visitors.

We should pay close attention to mental map matching. Museum visitors have a sense of geography marked by their own lived experiences. What feels like an important city landmark to one person isn’t even on the radar for another. 

To account for this, museums should approach maps in the same way that an online mapping service does: by making rules about what categories of landmarks appear at different zoom levels, and then letting the software take over.  

With the help of digital tools, we can work toward a map that draws on a hierarchy of categories instead of our personal experience.