How would an art museum user search for a Jackson Pollock painting with no art history knowledge?
In a library, the user needs to have ‘entry points’ such as title and author, to find a book. Until recently, the art museum user needed to have similar identifying information for a particular work of art. But what if you can't remember an artist's name? A piece of artwork has no cover or copyright page where identifying information is recorded. Folksonomies help art museums to identify items in their collections for access by their users.
Taxonomies are hierarchical systems of organization that classify items into further and further defined groupings through a series of parent-child relationships. Art museums use controlled vocabularies to organize their collections into taxonomies; this structure then informs the way their online galleries are organized. A top-down structure is helpful to museum staff, who need strict control over their holdings, but makes it difficult for users to explore online collections.
An online collection's search interface helps art enthusiasts who wish to explore online art collections, but may be unable to effectively utilize taxonomic keywords due to a lack of art historical expertise or knowledge of art terminology. Adding a folksonomy feature to the search interface improves findability for the lay user. So if all the user can remember about a work of art is "splatter paint" he will still find the Jackson Pollack he was looking for.