Museums and the Web

An annual conference exploring the social, cultural, design, technological, economic, and organizational issues of culture, science and heritage on-line.

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jennifer trant's Blog

New Article: Studying Social Tagging and Folksonomy: A Review and Framework


This paper reviews research into social tagging and folksonomy (as reflected in about 180 sources published through December 2007). Methods of researching the contribution of social tagging and folksonomy are described, and outstanding research questions are presented. This is a new area of research, where theoretical perspectives and relevant research methods are only now being defined. This paper provides a framework for the study of folksonomy, tagging and social tagging systems. Three broad approaches are identified, focusing first, on the folksonomy itself (and the role of tags in indexing and retrieval); secondly, on tagging (and the behaviour of users); and thirdly, on the nature of social tagging systems (as socio-technical frameworks).

J Trant, Studying Social Tagging and Folksonomy: A Review and Framework, Journal of Digital Information, Vol 10, No 1 (2009) available at

Wikipedia Loves Art

Shelley Bernstein has just announced an initiative to help illustrate Wikipedia articles: Wikipedia Loves Art. Part scavenger hunt, part photography contest, it's involving community in the visual documentation of museum collectons, and enhancing  Wikipedia entries. A far cry from being banned for linking into museum web sites!

happy new year everyone

wishing you peace and contentment in 2009.

with all our best,

jennifer and David

LC Flickr Commons Report Available

the Library of Congress has made a detailed report of their experiments with the Flickr Commons available on their web site at

They note the following in their summary:

how not to encourage web participation at a conference

i spent a chunk of today "participating online" in the 'web 2.0 summit' hosted by the City of Toronto, subtitled "Moving towards Government 2.0" [see the Agenda]. i hadn't heard anything about it until a tweet from Kevin Von Appen of the Ontario Science Centre mentioned he was speaking. the event offered 'on-line participation' and since i didn't have a time to head downtown i figured i'd check it out.

what i got was a lesson in how not to run an on-line event. rather than use the opportunity to model the kinds of changes in communications patterns that 'web 2.0' tech enables, the event was a one-way, an opportunity to watch 'guys in the know' talk to each other. video went out from the meeting, complete with horrible music when there was a break in the audio feed. "questions" could be submitted through an 'ask a question' form, but they turned out to be highly moderated.  [there was no mention of moderation anywhere in the prep materials.] there was a link to 'view the moderators board', but from my experience a lot of what was asked never made it there. at one point it disappeared completely for me. there was also a form to enter 'comments'. where they went was anyone's guess. i couldn't find any trace of what i  submitted, anywhere [though tech support did tell me the went 'into the same database as everything else'. how reassuring.]

there's no such thing as 'museum content'

There's a sentence from the Museums and the Web 2008 Proceedings that keeps coming back to me, as i think about things as wide-ranging as tag analysis for, and the nature of professional training in museums, archives and libraries.

When discussing the use of museum-materials posted on YouTube a group of museum professionals noted that “the people watching this were not searching for ‘museum’ content; they were searching for "calligraphy" content” (Alexander et al., 2008).

upcoming presentation: research results @ mcn

can we learn from tagging?: Tagging might give us some insight into visitor principal investigator of the IMLS research grant, wrapping up this december, i'll be presenting further results from our tagging study at the upcoming museum computer network conference:

Friday November 14, 2008
Grand Hyatt, Washington, DC

Should You Care about Social Tagging? – Findings and Recommendations from

tagging and folksonomy keynote @ DC2008

tags, search terms, and museum documentationi gave a keynote this morning at the Dublin Core Metadata Meeting - DC2008 on access to art museums on-line: a role for social tagging and folksonomy? that reports on more of the tagging data analysis. this talk built on what i reported at NKOS last week [ public and professional vocabularies. presentation @ NKOS 2008] and extended it to include some thoughts on user-generated metadata – useful in the context of DC, which began its life as a format for encoding user-created metadata – and a bit of work about the relationships between tags and search logs.

my slides are here (without some of the funky builds).

while we'd hypothesized that there might be a tight relationship between tags and search terms, what we found was a much looser coupling. whether this is a self-fulilling prophesy – because searches on the kinds of subject and genre terms that they use to tag fail, people don't use them – or because description and retrieval vocabularies vary at some other level still needs some thought. that's what the examples we looked at seemed to indicate, and a place i'll be looking further. public and professional vocabularies. presentation @ NKOS 2008

Usefulness of Tags: a sample set of worksDavid and i presented the first of the research results at the NKOS workshop today. the [many] slides are attached to this post. the take aways, though, can be easily summarized:

85%+ of tags are not found in museum documentation
60%+ tags don't match vocabularies [and those that do match ambiguously]
most tags can't be mined from other sources [like published catalogues or other scholarly works]

Public tagging vocabulary is different from the vocabulary in museum professional documentation. So tagging does contribute.

Contribute to what? well, we still need to look further into the details, particularly the relationships between tags and search terms to talk about that with more confidence. Watch for that from the Dublin Core (DC2008) meeting next week.

upcoming presentations on tagging and art museums

the fall travel season is starting up again, and we're in Europe this week and next presenting research results from the project. watch for the following:

Public and professional vocabularies: comparing user tagging with museum documents and documentation

The 7th European Networked Knowledge Organization Systems (NKOS) Workshop at the 12th ECDL Conference, Aarhus, Denmark
Friday September 19th 2008 [see the program on-line]

David and i will be talking about the differences between public tagging vocabularies and the language of art cataloguing and curators.

and tagging art. research and results

International Conference on Dublin Core and Metadata Applications, Berlin, Germany
Tuesday 23 September 2008 [see the program on-line]

i'm keynoting DC2008 – talking about the role of tagging in retrieval-focused museum metadata.

We're are looking forward to catching up with old friends, and – of course – i'll be posting notes and thoughts as we go.


IMA blogs in-gallery interactive

IMA heatmap -- see the full thing
The Indianapolis Museum of Art software development team has blogged some stats about an interactive installed in their Asian galleries, including some details about how and where it's touched. intriguing how, as Charlie Moad says, the heat map shows that people wanted to use the interface in the inverse way from how it was designed: they wanted to use the geographical map to find the work, not plot the work on the map.

our paradigms are shifting: "it’s google maps fault"

Museums and the Web Benchmarking Survey: Time for an Update

Some time ago – in 2005 – Archives & Museum Informatics launched a survey of museum web activities. We noted then that:

Each financial cycle museum Webmasters struggle
to justify their budget requests. Whenever statistical reports are
circulated someone asks, "How do we compare?" When exploring the
benefits of a new function, Web teams ask themselves "Is it worth the
investment?" Answers to these questions are hard to come by.

[see for the full background]

This survey – the results of which are written up at  – was designed to help fill some of the voids in our knowledge. As a first stab at the problem we realise that it wasn't perfect. And things have changed since 2005!

We've been asked to update the survey for a client-group of museums, and thought we'd use the opportunity to ask for input from the community as well. If we're going to launch it again more broadly, we'd like it to be useful to you ...

So, please, take a look at the questions – available as a PDF from – and post your thoughts on revisions or additional questions here. 

Media Arts Scotland has announced a Twitterist in Residence

During the month of July, 2008, you can follow Netwurker Mez as she explores the artistic potential of Twitter. She's New Media Scotalnd's second Twitterer in residence.

Follow Netwurker Mez's tweets at

Anyone else doing fun twitter things?

/jt wins honorary mention at PRIX ARS ELECTRONICA

The PRIX ARS ELECTRONICA were announced yesterday, and received an honorary mention in the Digital Communities category. announces facebook application: tag art in your profile

steve on has released enhancements to the steve tagger. you can now:

  • share images and tags
  • invite others to participate, and
  • display your tagged works on a Facebook profile pages, invite FB friends to tag, and see the most popular tagged works of art.