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Increasing application demands are pushing databases toward providing effective and efficient support for content-based retrieval over multimedia objects. In addition to adequate retrieval techniques, it is also important to enable some form of adaptation to users' specific needs. This paper introduces a new refinement method for retrieval based on the learning of the users' specific preferences. The proposed system indexes objects based on shape and groups them into a set of clusters, with each cluster represented by a prototype. Clustering constructs a taxonomy of objects by forming groups of closely-related objects. The proposed approach to learn the users' preferences is to refine corresponding clusters from objects provided by the users in the foreground, and to simultaneously adapt the database index in the background. Queries can be performed based solely on shape, or on a combination of shape with other features such as color. Our experimental results show that the system successfully adapts queries into databases with only a small amount of feedback from the users. The quality of the returned results is superior to that of a color-based query, and continues to improve with further use.