Sunday, 15 June 2008

Harnessing the power of our users

New technologies allow archives to share information in different ways but they also allow users to share their knowledge. This is one of the key concepts of Web 2.0 where collective intelligence and the wisdom of the crowd is harnessed by technologies turning the web into a kind of global brain (according to O'Reilly).

Examples where this has worked particularly well include Amazon and Ebay where information submitted by users are key to the success of these businesses. For archives with regular users the ability to capture some of their knowledge of the collections would be beneficial particularly as long-term users would have significant amounts of accumulated knowledge that would be of benefit to the archive and other users.

There are several ways to "harness the power of the crowd" in an archive:

  • Allow the items in your catalogue to be 'tagged' by users with their descriptive terms (this can be particularly good for images).
  • Start a wiki which will allow users to edit information about collections to complement your official resources.
  • Encourage users to share information they have with each other through forums and discussions.


VanessR 8 July 2008 at 13:47  

I think there are huge opportunities for archives to take advantage of their users' knowledge through Web 2.0. Museums have made increasing use of Web 2.0 technologies to enable their virtual users to experience the museum in a similar way to physical users with podcasts, blogs and tagging. Although is not as easy for archives, many virtual users will benefit from online exhibitions and the opportunity to contribute to these. With many archive users being specialists in their field it would be a waste to not exploit the potential knowledge. Archives can also benefit from receiving further 'memories' as has been done with the MovingHere website ( led by the National Archives. This website is a great example of combining archive, museum and library resources for the benefit of all.

teageniekiara 17 August 2008 at 19:53  

I completely agree, museums have been doing loads of interesting stuff with Web 2.0 and its my plan to showcase some examples soon.

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