Growing the Commons

Back in January, the Library of Congress began an outreach experiment by posting a relatively small selection of pictures from their collection to flickr. Since then they’ve been adding about fifty images a week.

This month, two museums join the library in posting their pictures to The Commons section of the photo sharing site.

The Brooklyn Museum in New York contributed more than 500 images from their collection and the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, Australia added almost that many.

As with the images provided by the Library, visitors to the museums pages are encouraged to leave comments and add tags they believe will help users better find them.

All pictures also can be easily downloaded and carry “no known copyright restrictions” making them excellent materials for both teachers and students to use for projects and presentations.

Currently the collection at the top of the BM pages includes some interesting pictures from expeditions to Egypt in the early part of the 20th century.

Hopefully, we’ll be seeing more institutions joining the Commons very soon.

So What?

In the few days after the Library of Congress posted several thousand pictures from their collection to flickr, I read or heard a surprising number of negative comments about the move.

Many were along the lines of “So, what? All of them are on the LOC site already.” or “Big deal! It’s only a very small part of their collection.”.

Well, a post on the flickr blog explains so what.

In the 24 hours after we launched, you added over 4,000 unique tags across the collection (about 19,000 tags were added in total, for example, “Rosie the Riveter” has been added to 10 different photos so far). You left just over 500 comments (most of which were remarkably informative and helpful), and the Library has made a ton of new friends (almost overwhelming the email account at the Library, thanks to all the “Someone has made you a contact” emails)!

The participation of a larger community is making these images even more accessible and informative than they’ve ever been.

Hopefully, the positive response will also encourage the Library and others to allow more of their materials to be tagged and enhanced by “ordinary” people.

And THAT’S the big deal!

Extending the Library

The people at the Library of Congress have worked hard to provide access to materials from the public collections on their web site, especially through the wonderful American Memory.

Now they are reaching out even farther by posting more than 3000 images in flickr.

Based on a quick scan through their section, the pictures seem to be pretty high quality, most in color from the 40’s and 50’s.

More importantly, the images come with fairly detailed documentation about the subjects and origins of the pictures, are extensively tagged, and have no copyright restrictions.

Hopefully, this is just the start of the Library and other public educational institutions extending access to their materials by offering them through the common gathering places on the web like flickr.

I wonder when their video collection will start showing up in YouTube.