Last year Sebastian Chan, web services manager at the Powerhouse Museum, and I were interviewed together on ABC Radio about social media and its implications.
Basically our collection database plays on the notion of serendipity and allows users to tag objects to help others find them more easily. Under the hood we also do a lot of search tracking which allows the collection database to make recommendations based on the search choices and search language used by others. For example, a search for ‘cricket’ now recommends other related ‘sport’ searches . . . something that is the result of user interactions with our site, not a centrally stored thesaurus. The new collection search has tripled web traffic to the museum in 10 months and now represents nearly 65% of our monthly site visitation.
We have been getting a *lot* of coverage in the cultural sector both locally and internationally and are being looked to as an example of a new approach to making museum and gallery content discoverable online. A lot of libraries are very interested as well. It continues to be built in house.
The only other museum tagging projects are STEVE.museum and that has not gone live with a ‘all of collection’ implementation and the Smithsonian’s photo collection which is in a very early stage. The value of it all, of course, is better public access to collections – using the langauge the general public uses (rather than specialist museum speak) etc.
Very nice stuff. It’s well worth checking out what the Powerhouse is doing here, as well as Sebastian’s blog. It’s important to remember that Web 2.0 isn’t only about start-ups. These technologies also can be valuable tools to help us engage as a community with our cultural heritage.