Unlikely Allies: Flickr and the Library of Congress

Last week, I posted a story on my blog about the Library of Congress and it’s partnership with Flickr to create something called “The Commons.” Take a look for yourself! Here’s a sample photo:

Here’s the blog entry:

Check out this article in USA Today regarding the Library of Congress and its use of Flickr, the online photo sharing website. This excerpt from the article gives you a sense of the project:

When the Library of Congress began looking for ways to publicize its historical photos collections last year, it found an unlikely partner in Flickr, which created a project called “The Commons” (flickr.com/commons), where the library — and now several other institutions — have posted their public photography archives.

Six months into the project, the library has been able to update 500 photo records with new information provided by Flickr users — everything from names of people and places in photographs to specific airplane models shown in photos, says Helena Zinkham, acting chief of the Prints and Photographs Division.

The library began with two major collections: 1,500 black-and-white photos taken from 1910 to 1920 by George Grantham Bain’s New York-based Bain News Service and 1,600 color shots from the Farm Service Administration/Office of War Information that were taken in the 1940s. It has since added 900 additional photos from the Bain collection.

The photos were chosen for their popularity with library visitors and the fact that they had no copyright restrictions.

I was just reviewing The Commons again this morning and it appears as if the Smithsonian and other museums havae added photos as well.

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Profile Photo Andrea Di Maio

Isn’t this something The Smithsonian Institute did already some time ago? Check the Smithsonian Phtography Initiative at http://photography.si.edu/. Interestingly enough, they have now joine flickr Commons. This seems to confirm what our research tells us: the success of these initiatives is inversely linked to how much control government can exercise. Great things about Commons is that teh actual source of historical photos becomes irrelevant: what people care about is the ability to tag and search them in all possible ways.

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Profile Photo Brett White

I started using Flickr as our photo archive here in our Public Information Office several months back. All of our photos are freely downloadable which has been a great convenience for the media outlets looking for photos of events and ceremonies to run in the local press. With the organization tools and nifty widgets I can’t think of any reason NOT to use it. :-)

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