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News | The fast-growing social network site Gransnet gets hooked on tagging

Le Nain, Antoine, c.1588–1648 | Le Nain, Louis, c.1593–1648 | Le Nain, Mathieu, 1607–1677

Le Nain, Antoine, c.1588–1648 | Le Nain, Louis, c.1593–1648 | Le Nain, Mathieu, 1607–1677 , A Woman and Five Children (detail), 1642, oil on copper The National Gallery, London

This Spring we’ve got a new craze on Gransnet, the fast-growing social networking site for Britain’s 14 million grandparents. In among the usual conversations about difficult daughters-in-law, George Osborne’s granny tax and whether you can get too old for jeans, a new enthusiasm has developed, for tagging paintings.

Gransnet has teamed up with the Public Catalogue Foundation to encourage our members to get involved and they’ve taken to it with gusto. 'Gransnetters' tend to be rather busy people, often caring for grandchildren as well as working, volunteering and looking after elderly relatives, but, perhaps because of this, they’ve found tagging highly appealing. They’ve been discovering the joys of stumbling across bits of our heritage that they didn’t know existed and had great satisfaction from participating in a communal effort to catalogue the nation’s paintings.

‘I have fallen in love with the work of  Wilhelmina Barns-Graham,’ Greatgablegran says. ‘I didn’t know her before and tagging has sent me off to learn all about her.’  A member calling herself getmehrt says she has ‘relished stumbling on paintings which often tell us so much about our history, moving from an eighteenth-century nature painting, say, to a twentieth-century modernist portrait. Viewing them together tells you so much about how we wanted to see ourselves – and it’s absolutely fascinating to see the wealth of art that’s squirrelled away in relatively obscure regional centres all over the country.’

For anyone who doesn’t know about us, Gransnet was launched in May last year, the child (mother?) of the very successful Mumsnet, when we were hailed by the Telegraph as ‘a new dawn in grey power.’ We had 500,000 page views in the first month and have been growing fast ever since. Free to join, the site features regular webchats with everyone from Vince Cable to Ruby Wax, a book club with giveaways and discussions with authors, discounts, reviews and the main business – discussions on anything and everything. And now, tagging – ‘popping in every half hour or so, whenever I get bored with whatever I’m supposed to be working on', as absentgrana put it.

In the process, we believe we may have discovered a hitherto unadvertised benefit of tagging, beyond all the obvious ones to do with looking at paintings and contributing to an important national project. One member recently asked for advice on how to avoid spending money; she was robustly recommended to ‘go and do some tagging.’

Geraldine Bedell
Editor of Gransnet