Fresh & New(er)

discussion of issues around digital media and museums by Seb Chan

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Re-ingesting Flickr tags from the Commons back into our collection OPAC

July 25th, 2008 by Seb Chan

Today we completed the circle.

We have started presenting the tags that Flickr users have left on our images in the Commons on Flickr in their associated collection records in our online collection database. What this means is that the large number of tags added to our photographic collection in Flickr now are available in our OPAC to help others navigate the rest of our OPAC and connect with similar objects not available in the Commons and not in Flickr.

It is important to realise that almost none of the Tyrrell images were tagged in our own collection – even though the ability to tag was there. This means the effort that the Flickr community has made in tagging our collection in Flickr has a second life in our OPAC, reaching even more users and increasing their navigational and use value as metadata.

We first thought about merging the Flickr-originating tags with the tags submitted on our own site but realised that this could create confusion – especially because the Flickr tags couldn’t be deleted. Thus they now live in their own temporary tag space until our next redesign launches. After Luke did a bit of code tweaking we have managed to pull everything back in the correct character set (to accommodate all the double-byte tags in Flickr) and with spacing intact.

Here is the image in Flickr, and how it now appears in our OPAC. The same tags on both.

We now import Flickr tags each week (so don’t expect your latest tags to show up immediately!). The import script runs alongside the script that uploads our latest image to the Commons on Flickr each week.

Thank you again to all the Flickr-ites who are making such a useful contribution to the Museum’s catalogue metadata.

Tags: 5 Comments

  • http://blogs.walkerart.org/newmedia/ Nate Solas

    Very cool. I’m curious to see how things go as far as the temporary tag space – I’ve been mulling over how to approach re-integrating metadata generated offsite, and am coming to the same conclusion: they need to be separate somehow. But forever? I don’t know. Keep us posted, and as always congratulations to you and your team!

  • Seb Chan

    Hi Nate

    Yeah I think we will always need to keep the metadata’s source because this brings necessary context (the Flickr generated tags are a good source of content tagging but not necessarily of context tagging); but whether that means it appears separately in the presentation layer in the future, I’m not sure.

  • http://photography.si.edu Effie

    Did you notice if you got tags that weren’t already included in the photo metadata? It doesn’t look like you did in the example you gave.

  • Seb Chan

    Hi Effie

    I haven’t done the analysis of ‘new terms’ yet but about 50% of the images we have put in to the Commons so far are almost completely uncatalogued and so had no pre-existing metadata.

    Here is a better example – Hunter St, Sydney.

  • Erik Sandall

    Wonderful example of data portability. You’re using a script to import Flickr tags, which seems to be working for you. However, have you considered doing some semantic web-like programing so that current, updated Flickr tags are inserted into the image’s record each time a user accesses it?