Tag, You're It!

The Online Public Access prototype (OPA) just got an exciting new feature — tagging!   As you search the catalog, we now invite you to tag any archival description, as well as person and organization name records, with the keywords or labels that are meaningful to you.  Our hope is that crowdsourcing tags will enhance the content of our online catalog and help you find the information you seek more quickly.

Ready to give it a try?

To begin adding tags, visit OPA’s registration page and register by entering your preferred username, email address, and password.   Log in, run a search, and look for the “Add Tag” box on the left side of the screen.  Start tagging!

Letter from Mary Greenhow Lee to Rose Greenhow, ca. 1861 (ARC ID 1634068)


Newly created tags will be reviewed to ensure they meet the National Archives’ tagging policy guidelines, and will be visible the day they are approved and indexed overnight.  In addition to the new user registration and tagging features in OPA, we’ve also made some fixes to the system, such as adding the Record Group and/or Collection information to the full displays for archival descriptions, as well as the Level of Description.

So, what’s next?  Would you be interested in a tagging event?  We’d love to organize “tagging missions” to encourage groups of users to contribute tags within a specific Record Group or subject area!  What kinds of missions would you be interested in participating at the National Archives?

We invite you to register for an account in OPA and start tagging!  We will be rolling out two more releases in the next few months, with additional functionality and features.  Please send us your feedback at search@nara.gov.  Happy tagging!

14 thoughts on “Tag, You're It!

  1. I was wondering whether you will allow machine tags. The FAQ is a bit vague and simply says that ‘some special characters’ will be allowed.

    Machine tags, particularly combined with uri identifiers will allow users to avoid ambiguity and build rich semantic relationships around items.

    Flickr allows machine tags and some NARA photos have already had machine tags added by the public – see: http://wraggelabs.com/fmtc/source/35740357@N03/

    1. Tim,

      Unfortunately machine tags cannot be entered into OPA at this time. Currently the “=” character is not allowed in OPA tags, and OPA wouldn’t recognize machine tags’ special syntax or allow users to query them. However, we’re definitely planning to add these capabilities in the future. We appreciate that Flickr supports machine tags, and based on a researcher’s request, we typically add a machine tag to each of our Flickr images that includes the Archival Research Catalog identifier. We will update our FAQ about special characters to be more specific sometime this week. Thanks for your question!


  2. there is a long delay from when you click on the item til it allows you to tag. i started writing this comment then went back to make sure that i was describing the right thing and it had finally appeared. my internet connection is pretty good so i don’t think that was the entire problem. i would check on it at least because it really confused me.

    maybe AAM’s post on facebook got the better of you or something?

    1. Hi Emma,

      Thanks for letting us know. The slowness may be caused by a high volume of traffic on our servers in the last couple of days; we are looking into it right now. Thanks for your feedback, and we hope you enjoy the tagging feature!

      Maureen (admin)

    1. Hi Aaron,

      When I go to the registration page in either IE or Firefox, I am able to bring the page up OK. If a security certification message box pops up, please click Yes to proceed and the page should load for you.

      If you are still having problems, can you give me more information on the steps you took and what the error message says? That will help us investigate further. Thanks!


  3. Interesting new feature! I work as an archivist in the Netherlands. We’ve been experimenting with a tagging feature ourselves (only as a demo) but one difference with your feature was, that ours could be used without registering/reviewing. Also I noticed that added tags in your case need approval first, before they become available for everyone.

    I am curious to know 1) how succesful the new feature is so far, 2) whether you choose to have the submitted tags be reviewed first (did you have trouble in the past?), and 3) during the review process, are there many tags that don’t get approval? And are these tags mainly abbusive and such, or are tags also not being approved because of their quality?

    Sorry for asking so many questions. I find tagging features quite fascinating, and are also interested in the effects of reviewing and monitoring.

    Great idea of having ‘tagging events’ btw! 🙂

  4. Christian,

    Thanks for your comments! It’s interesting to hear about your experience doing demos with tagging.

    Our previous experience with tagging has been through the Flickr Commons. That is an awesome community! National Archives photos on Flickr have received tens of thousands of tags. In Flickr tags go live immediately and we monitor for anything that doesn’t meet our guidelines. In two years, we have only ever deleted a handful of tags from a couple of users.

    In OPA we have received around 700 tags so far. We think that is a good start considering the OPA prototype was offline for a week for updates since we launched the tagging feature.

    The review of tags is very light and just ensures that nothing violates our tagging policy: http://www.archives.gov/social-media/policies/tagging-policy.html.

    We haven’t seen any spam, vulgar, abusive, or deliberately misleading tags at this point. We’ve only deleted a few tags that appeared to be “test” tags submitted by users trying out the tagging feature, such as tags that included the word test or a string of special characters. OPA has a spam filter, and we check the filter for any tags that shouldn’t have been caught there.

    This review process is what we decided to try first. It’s similar to our blog comment review process, since the content lives on our .gov site. We might pilot other ways of reviewing and monitoring the tags in OPA (with help from citizen archivists) as the community grows and as we can add features to OPA.

    Thanks again!
    Social Media Manager, NARA

  5. Thank you for your reply, Jill! And I’m glad to hear that you don’t seem to receive any ‘bad’ tags whatsoever, except for the test tags.

    I do believe, as do you, that 700 tags so far is succesful — making the collections better accessible, tag by tag.

    At our own archives, we have similar experiences with user generated content for quite a few years now. For example our forums this year alone already received thousands of messages. And only a few needed to be deleted. I guess as archives we have a very polite audience. 🙂

  6. This is great! Will the tags be searchable also? (Are tags included in the metadata that is searched when someone uses the search box, or perhaps some other way?)

    1. Hi Lisa,

      Thanks for your great question! Tags are now searchable within OPA, via the main keyword search box on both the basic and advanced search screens. A system update scheduled for late September will feature a separate search box on the Advanced Search screen to limit searches on tags only. At that time, users will still be able to keyword search tags in the main search box, but you will also be able to search on tags alone (and not other parts of the description metadata).

      We hope you enjoy the tagging feature; thanks for your feedback!

  7. This is great – I’m so glad the tags are searchable. I know a lot of catalog applications that allow users to add tags, but you can’t actually search the tags, which I think limits their usefulness. Thank you so much for making the tags searchable (and for answering my question)!

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