Steve: The Art Museum Social Tagging Project


SFMOMA is a participating partner in Steve: The Art Museum Social Tagging Project (, which was awarded a National Leadership Grant from the federal government's Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). The program is modeled on a social tagging system popularized by photo sharing sites such as Flickr, where visitors create labels that describe each image they view. Based at the Indianapolis Museum of Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, applies a similar system to artworks from the collections of all participating institutions, including SFMOMA, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Denver Art Museum, the Guggenheim Museum, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, and the Rubin Museum of Art.

By employing a user-generated taxonomy to describe works from each participating museum's collection, Steve addresses a gap that currently exists between the way that art is described by museums and the way in which it is understood by the public. Through the Steve project, an artwork's larger audience is empowered to label it with keywords that reflect its subject matter, social context, and media, potentially expanding both its context and its social impact.

In addition to offering visitors an engaging and accessible way to browse and interact with a museum's online collection, the Steve project will focus attention on the process and product of tagging as it applies to art museums, spotlighting its effects both institutionally and in terms of visitor experience. Participating museums began contributing artworks for tagging as part of a research period that began in April 2007. The tools developed to implement Steve will be available for use by other museums throughout the project's development