Friday, January 25, 2008

Should Other Archival Photograph Collections Move to Flickr Commons?

Last week Agnese Caruso reported that the Library of Congress is running a pilot project with Flickr to make its photographic collections available over the web. According to the Library of Congress Blog, the response has been tremendous:

The response to the Library’s pilot project with Flickr has been nothing short of astounding. You always hope for a positive reaction to something like this, but it has been utterly off the charts—from the Flickr community, from the blogosphere, from the news media—it is nothing short of amazing.

Let’s start out with a few statistics, as of last night (thanks, Justin!):

• 392,000 views on the photostream
• 650,000 views of photos
• Adding in set and collection page views, there were about 1.1 million total views on our account
• All 3,100+ photos have been viewed
• 420 of the photos have comments
• 1,200 of the photos have been favorited

That report was as of January 18th, so you can imagine how much more the word has spread by now.

From the Flickr write-up of The Commons, there is the idea that this is the first of what they hope are many projects in this regard:

Hopefully, this pilot can be used as a model that other cultural institutions would pick up, to share and redistribute the myriad collections held by cultural heritage institutions all over the world.

Over on the BlogTO blog, Sameer Vasta ponders whether the Toronto Archives should also make its photographic collections available on Flickr? His thoughts:

While their collection may not be as extensive as that of the LoC, the Toronto Archives hold photos from as far back as 1856. This extensive compendium on all things Toronto is partially-accessible through the web, but for the most part, it's still hidden away from our city's general public, many of whom have no clue that the Archives even exist.

Is it time for the Toronto Archives to collaborate with an organization like Flickr in order to share their collections with a larger audience?

I wonder from the point of view of archives, libraries or other organizations holding photos, what kind of resources need to go into creating a collection on Flickr? It seems to me staffing and money would need to go into it, something these organizations may not have a lot of. Should they designate resources to this? Should the government be making one-time funds available for this purpose?

Republished from original post on Slaw.


Sameer Vasta said...

I think organizations need to evaluate their primary cause for keeping their archives. Organizations that are looking to increase engagement with their archives -- cities, libraries, other public institutions -- would be silly not to open them up to a service like Flickr. Sure, digitization would require significant resources at first, but it would still be easier (and probably much cheaper) than trying to build the infrastructure on their own. Plus, Flickr comes with the added bonus of having a massive audience -- and excellent PR as well.

(Thanks for the link.)

Connie Crosby said...

Hi Vasta:

Thanks so much for your comment!

Definitely the PR on this has been huge for the first institution to do this...and that has to go a long way in promoting the organization in the public eye.

Your points are very well taken. I teach a social networking tools course for librarians and thus far have only shown some of my classes Flickr very briefly. I am going to add this topic in, especially if I have those from public institutions in the class to make them aware of this idea.


rakerman said...

It would be nice to somehow hook up some of the digitization people (Open Content Alliance?) and people expert on the library side of things (Rick Prelinger?) with endangered photo archives, like the National Defence photos

National Defence Image Library crumbling

and then get everything into Flickr.