Established in 2005 as a collaboration of museum professionals interested in investigating the potential of social tagging to improve access to museum collections, the Steve.Museum project (www.steve.museum) has recently concluded a research project on social tagging funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Building on the results of that research and the tools that were developed to support it, the project team is now engaged in work that draws on the findings of their research to encourage the widespread adoption of social tagging methods and tools in museums, libraries, and historical societies of many sizes and types. This new project, again funded by the IMLS, seeks to develop innovative real-world implementations of social tagging in cultural heritage institutions during the next three years. At the same time, research funded through the University of Maryland’s College of Information Studies will bring Steve project participants together with members of UMD’s CLiMB Project (originally an initiative of Columbia’s Center for Research on Information Access) to examine the intersection of mined text, user-contributed tags, and trust assessments to disambiguate terms and enhance finding in collections of all types.
In this presentation, Daniel Starr, Manager of Bibliographic Operations at the Thomas J. Watson Library of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, will provide background about the origin of the Steve project at the Met, describing the museum’s early proof-of-concept studies into the value of social tagging for cataloguing works of art, and the formation of the museum’s Subject Cataloguing Working Group to brainstorm new ways to support finding of collection objects online. Susan Chun, a founder of the Steve collaboration, will provide a summary of research results and discuss the Steve team’s plans for extending the project’s existing tool set (including the open source steve tagger) to simplify installation of the tools and management of the data; to support better integration with existing museum systems; and to develop interfaces to the steve tagger that will engage and motivate taggers, including the large potential pool of enthusiast or “expert” taggers, and foreign-language contributors. She will consider the potential of tagging to support cross-collection searching, and outline the project’s plan to implement a tag server (possibly in conjunction with Flickr or other publicly-available tools) to enable finding across multiple collection types and cataloguing standards.
The presenters will also consider ways in which institutional policy and mission affect decisions about the “best” use of tagging for an organization, and will discuss some of the differences in requirements for tools that support the tagging of collections of different types. Now one of the museum community’s longest-standing and most successful collaborative projects, the steve team consists of museum professionals with a range of skills and outlooks, as well as members of the academic, vendor, and consultant communities. There will be time for discussion about potential library-museum research projects or collaborations, and for questions and answers about the project and its activities.