I have heard about this thing called user-tagging in relation to museum objects. I too am confused about the terminology used - tagging, social bookmarking, keywords ... I'm also wondering how useful this is as a process of connecting people with objects?
Some things I've been reading shed some light. The Pew Research Centre have a post about Tagging Play:
"Just as the internet allows users to create and share their own media, it is also enabling them to organize digital material their own way, rather than relying on pre-existing formats for classifying information. ... Traditionally, search on the web (or within websites) has been done by using keywords. Tagging is a kind of next-stage search phenomenon -- a way to mark, store, and then retrieve web content that users have already found valuable and want to keep track of. It is, of course, more personalized ..."
Pew also report that taggers (at least in the US) are more likely to be early adopters of technology, under 40 years of age with higher income and education. Aside from age, these characteristics are also shared with museum visitors as explained on the AMARC website.
Also read an interesting piece about tagging (called in this post "social bookmarking") and marketing Social Bookmarking: pushing collaboration to the edge. This post helped explain social bookmarking to me:
"Social bookmarking leverages the popular social software phenomenon of tagging. Users can apply tags, or keywords, to the bookmarks they save. In social bookmarking, tagging creates a grass-roots taxonomy for the shared bookmarks. Users can search by tags to find bookmarks relevant to their interests. Taxonomies created through bookmarking are called "folksonomies."
What museums are doing interesting things with tagging? There is a paper from Museums and the Web 2007 by Seb Chan, Tagging and Searching – Serendipity and museum collection databases,as well as a research project reported here with useful links. The project, steve museum is an experiment in tagging art (and a very nice website too!). The Brooklyn Museum has many community projects, inlcuding a shared photo site, with a good set of guidelines and policy on uploading photos.
I will now retire to the vestry and ponder further these matters...