Murdoch University Research Repository

Welcome to the Murdoch University Research Repository

The Murdoch University Research Repository is an open access digital collection of research
created by Murdoch University staff, researchers and postgraduate students.

Learn more

The Gernsback Machine: Towards a Museum of Possible Futures and Probable Pasts

Hobbs, V.J., Pigott, D. and Towler, M. (2004) The Gernsback Machine: Towards a Museum of Possible Futures and Probable Pasts. In: Museums and the Web 2004, 31 March - 3 April, Arlington, Virginia

PDF - Published Version
Download (281kB)


Museums have traditionally used timelines as a means of creating narratives of historical, cultural, political, geographical and social change. However, such timelines are only one aspect of a potential infinity of semantic continua, and fail to exploit fully the possibilities implicit in the objects that exemplify them. In this paper we describe the 'Gernsback Machine', a novel categorisation and navigation model based on principles of facet analysis that enables descriptive metadata terms to be located within a fully navigable universal facet tree. The navigation potential of 'step, flip or zoom' inherent in the GM permits exploration through all semantic continua, and, by allowing the users to follow their own particular threads, enables complex narrative structures to be created. We describe how the Gernsback Machine can be used to create a virtual museum space for new or existing collections, using a series of recursively defined 'bento' containers to define the museum content. We describe how our prototype illustrates the potential of the GM in exploring different aspects of the time facet, in a 'museum of the history of possible futures and probable pasts'.

Item Type: Conference Paper
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Information Technology
Copyright: © Archives & Museum Informatics
Conference Website:
Notes: David Bearman and Jennifer Trant (eds.). Museums and the Web 2004: Proceedings. Toronto: Archives & Museum Informatics, 2004.
Item Control Page Item Control Page


Downloads per month over past year