This paper describes an ongoing collaboration between the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Carnegie Mellon University, and the University of Pittsburgh to explore and study how emerging gigapixel image technology can be used to support science communication and learning in natural history museums. Multitouch based explorations of dynamic visual information spaces present unique user interface and interaction design opportunities and challenges. This case study focuses on a human centered design approach to technology innovation, by describing the design research methodologies used and the series of prototypes developed. We share findings from a series of user studies to optimize navigation, annotation and exploration in a zoomable user interface, and highlight the unique affordances of multiscalar image platforms to scaffold disciplinary observation and engagement with scientific content. Lastly, we discuss future design directions and offer some frameworks that can be adopted by museums when seeking to incorporate explorable, high-resolution imagery into exhibit experiences, both on the museum floor and on-line.

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