Many websites support “tagging,” which is nothing more than assigning a word or phrase to something on the website such as a photograph.
The National Archives is promoting the concept of the citizen archivist and recently gave recognition to a Flickr user, TVL1970, who has assigned over seven thousand tags to NARA photographs on Flickr.
For example, Tom (TVL1970’s real name), tagged one photograph with the words of a sign in the photograph. Search on NARA’s website for “Bernie’s Bait and Tackle” and you will not find the photo because NARA has not indexed the text in all its photographs. But search on Flickr and you will find it because of Tom’s tag. (See the illustration, above.)
“A tag on a photograph provides the opportunity to connect a photo, especially the people, places and experiences it captures, to the past and the future,” Tom said. “The significance of many photographs is in danger of being lost as time marches on. Providing a tag, to me, is a means of historical preservation. Tags … I feel that in the digital age, they are tangible signposts for those who might seek answers in these photos in the future.” Tom enjoys the sense of accomplishment he feels by discovering the people and places in the photographs, and then making that information available to others.
Facebook supports smart tagging. Tag a friend in a photograph and it will show up in their photograph list.
Ancestry.com supports photo tagging, but they don’t call it tagging and I don’t think the notes are searchable.
Next time I’ll talk more about the role I see for tagging in genealogy.