Museums and the Web

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Susan Cairns's picture

Tag! You're It! What Value Do Folksonomies Bring To The Online Museum Collection?

Susan Cairns, The University of Newcastle, Australia


As growing numbers of museums invite users to digitally tag online collection objects with key words, it is timely to examine the value that this practice can bring to the sector. These tags in their aggregate are known as ëfolksonomiesí and are broad user-derived classifications that are, at their heart, a form of communication (Huang & Chuang, 2009). As a collaborative process with no hierarchical structure (Cameron & Mengler, 2009), folksonomies stand in opposition to traditional museum taxonomies, and present museums with new opportunities for gaining insight into, and interacting with, audiences. Further, through recording evolving language and tag behaviour, folksonomies have the potential to become autonomously important to the museum in its study of people and written historical documentation. This conceptual paper will present an exploratory examination of the value that folksonomies provide to the museum and gallery sector in the digital age. It will demonstrate that incorporating folksonomies with traditional taxonomic museum classification systems provides the museum with an important new way through which to maintain and grow its relevance in the digital age.

Keywords: folksonomies, museum documentation, social media, tagging, taxonomy