Flickr and Library of Congress

January 29, 2008 at 2:00 am Leave a comment

Kim photoI’ve only recently started putting my photos on Flickr as I’ve been using another photo sharing site. Seems the Library of Congress is the same as me: a late starter on Flickr. Whilst rummaging around on Flickr, I found the Library of Congress is making copyright-free images and photos of historical and cultural interest available so that the public can tag content. It’s a pilot project but there’s already some amazing stuff:

  • the 1930s and 1940s in colour collection
  • 1500 photos from 1900-1920 New York depicting disasters, sports events, strikes and celebrities (yep, even way back then, we were celebrity-obsessed apparently)

And what is really exciting is that a trio of photos had been incorrectly labelled by the Library of Congress as images from the administration of Ulysses S. Grant in 1869. A user was browsing through the online collection of photos and alerted the Library to the high probability that the photos were from 1865 and therefore from the Lincoln administration. The Library checked the negatives and confirmed that the podium shown in the photos was that of Lincoln and not Grant.

According to the Library of Congress blog, there are more than 14 million photos and other visual materials but the project is starting off modestly with the two collections mentioned above. The Library is hoping that key information sometimes missing from photos, such as who took the photo or where the photo was taken, will be provided by the public tagging items.

Flickr has created a new publication model for publicly held photographic collections called “The Commons”. If you want to participate, here’s the FAQ site.

I spent hours on the Library of Congress Flickr site. Here are just some of the images that caught my eye and I’m tempted to answer the question “How would you tag this photo?”:

There’s something about the power and drama of an old black and white photo that (IMHO) modern DSLRs can’t quite match. Have a browse through the collection – you’ll wonder what people’s lives were like and you’ll become caught up in the history and stories.

Source: Los Angeles Times

Entry filed under: Flickr, History, Libraries, Library 2.0, Photography, Web 2.0.

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