Exploring the potential for social tagging and folksonomy in art museums: Proof of concept
New Review of Hypermedia and Multimedia
Documentation of art museum collections has been traditionally written by and for art historians. To make art museum collections broadly accessible, and to enable art museums to engage their communities, means of access need to reflect the perspectives of other groups and communities. Social Tagging (the collective assignment of keywords to resources) and its resulting Folksonomy (the assemblage of concepts expressed in such a cooperatively developed system of classification) offer ways for art
... museums to engage with their communities and to understand what users of on-line museum collections see as important. Proof of Concept studies at The Metropolitan Museum of Art compared terms assigned by trained cataloguers and untrained cataloguers to existing museum documentation, and explored the potential for social tagging to improve access to museum collections. These preliminary studies, the results of which are reported here, have shown the potential of social tagging and folksonomy to open museum collections to new, more personal meanings. Untrained cataloguers identified content elements not described in formal museum documentation. Results from these tests -the first in the domainprovided validation for exploring social tagging and folksonomy as an access strategy within The Metropolitan Museum, motivation to proceed with a broader inter-institutional collaboration, and input into the development of a multi-institutional collaboration exploring tagging in art museums. Tags assigned by users might help bridge the semantic gap between the professional discourse of the curator and the popular language of the museum visitor. The steve collaboration (http://www.steve.museum) is building on these early studies to develop shared tools and research methods that enable social tagging of art museum collections and explore the utility of folksonomy for providing enhanced access to collections.