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steve.museum research report available: Tagging, Folksonomy and Art Museums


Tagging, Folksonomy and Art Museums: Results of steve.museum’s research

J. Trant, Archives & Museum Informatics

Abstract
Tagging has proven attractive to art museums as a means of enhancing access to on-line collections. The steve.museum research project studied tagging and the relationship of the resulting folksonomy to professionally created museum documentation. A variety of research questions were proposed, and methods for answering them explored. Works of art were assembled to be tagged, a tagger was deployed, and tagging encouraged. A folksonomy of 36,981 terms was gathered, comprising 11,944 terms in 31,031 term/work pairs. The analysis of the tagging of these works – and the assembled folksonomy – is reported here, and further work described.

Tagging is shown to provide a significantly different vocabulary than museum documentation: 86% of tags were not found in museum documentation. The vast majority of tags – 88.2% – were assessed as Useful for searching by museum staff. Some users (46%) always contributed useful tags, while others (5.1%) never assigned a useful tag. Useful-ness increased dramatically when terms were assigned more than once. Activity for Registered Users was approximately twice that of Anonymous Users. The behaviour of individual supertaggers had far more influence on the resulting folksonomy than any interface variable. Relating tags to museum controlled-vocabularies proved problematic at best.

Tagging by the public is shown to address works of art from a perspective different than that of museum documentation. User tags provide additional points of view to those in existing museums records. Within the context of art museums, user contributed tags could help reflect the breadth of approaches to works of art, and improve searching by offering access to alternative points of view. Tags offer another layer that supplements and complements the documentation provided by professional museum cataloguers.


Keywords: Tagging, folksonomy, art museums, vocabulary analysis, search log analysis, research agenda, user-generated content

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