24 January 2008

Library of Congress: 'My Friend Flickr'

Here's a new online photo resource for researchers around the world.

According to a recent Library of Congress Blog posting, the LOC has taken a big step and has entered the world of Web 2.0, writes Matt Raymond, the Library’s director of communications since 2006.

Millions of people around the globe are actively creating, sharing or benefiting from user-generated content. Raymond wants to expand the reach of the LOC and and access to its collections as far as possible. The best way to do this is through the Internet.

That’s why it is so exciting to let people know about the launch of a brand-new pilot project the Library of Congress is undertaking with Flickr, the enormously popular photo-sharing site that has been a Web 2.0 innovator. If all goes according to plan, the project will help address at least two major challenges: how to ensure better and better access to our collections, and how to ensure that we have the best possible information about those collections for the benefit of researchers and posterity. In many senses, we are looking to enhance our metadata (one of those Web 2.0 buzzwords that 90 percent of our readers could probably explain better than me).

From some 14 million bits of visual materials (prints, photos, etc.), some 3,000 photos from two very popular collections are now on the LOC's Flickr page. These are images for which no copyright is known to exist.

The online digitized high-resolution images include 1,600 color images from the Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information and some 1,500 images from the George Grantham Bain News Service.

The LOC wants people to tag, comment and make notes on the images, just like other photos at the website. Many images are missing essential caption details, such as where it was taken, or who's pictured. If Flickr members can provide such details, the resource is certainly enhanced.

Flickr has created a new publication model for publicly held photographic collections called “The Commons.” Flickr hopes—as do we—that the project will eventually capture the imagination and involvement of other public institutions, as well.

Writes Raymond, "this pilot project is a statement about the power of the Web and user communities to help people better acquire information, knowledge ... [and] to learn as much as we can about that power simply through making constructive use of it."

To view the photos, click here. It is free and you don't need an account to view the images. To add comments or tags, however, you will need to sign up for a free account.

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