Flickr the world's historic photos

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A Fourth of July celebration, St. Helena Island, S.C. (Library of Congress collection)

A few weeks ago I suggested that the Beryl Ford Collection of historic Tulsa photos would benefit from the kind of user interface offered by Flickr:

The ideal online presentation of the Beryl Ford Collection would have several characteristics, taking advantage of Web 2.0 technology:
  1. Each photo available in a range of resolutions, including the highest resolution possible -- at least 600 dpi.
  2. Searchable extended descriptions and tags.
  3. The ability for archive visitors to add comments (memories associated with the photo, historical details) and to add descriptive tags to aid searching.
  4. The ability for archive visitors to attach notes -- highlighting certain details in the photo that might otherwise be overlooked.
  5. The ability to search by geography -- to zoom in on a map and see photos in and around a particular location.

I learned today that someone already had this idea: The Library of Congress. In January, the LoC launched a pilot project, posting photos from their archive on Flickr. Flickr's "The Commons" project now includes four other archives: The Smithsonian Institution, the Brooklyn Museum, the Powerhouse Museum (Australia), and the Bibliothèque de Toulouse.

The Commons project has two main objectives:

  1. To increase access to publicly-held photography collections, and
  2. To provide a way for the general public to contribute information and knowledge. (Then watch what happens when they do!)

In a FAQ about the LoC's Flickr pilot program, they give the reasons the LoC is doing this:

  • To share photographs from the Library's collections with people who enjoy images but might not visit the Library's own Web site.
  • To gain a better understanding of how social tagging and community input could benefit both the Library and users of the collections.
  • To gain experience participating in Web communities that are interested in the kinds of materials in the Library's collections.

Each of the LoC's photos on Flickr includes catalog information, with a link back to the image's home on the LoC website, where higher-resolution versions of the images, including the original, uncompressed TIFF scans can be viewed and downloaded.

So far, the LoC has posted about 4,000 photos on Flickr, including a set of 4x5 color Kodachrome images from the late '30s and early '40s and a set of Bain News Service photos from the 1910s. The Bain photos have very little information attached, and the LoC is hoping to learn more about the people and places depicted through comments and notes posted via Flickr.

Flickr's The Commons seems like a perfect match for the Beryl Ford Collection.

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» Beryl Ford from BatesLine

I was sad to learn of the death of Beryl Ford, the collector of historic Tulsa photographs and ephemera. Ford was 83. Every Tulsan with a desire to understand our city's past owes him an immense debt of gratitude. I can't find words strong enough to ex... Read More


I like the idea of putting the Beryl Ford Collection on Flickr. Especially high resolution copies. I have taken some of the photos from there and tweaked them in photoshop and brought out details you wouldnt even know were in the photos. You can do wonders to many of the photos that are dark by lightening them with a certain feature in photoshop. Takes a bit of artistry, but I seem to have a knack for that. :-)

here is the one you posted in this article, not sure if it will show on here. Only took a minute to do and you can see a lot more detail.


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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on July 1, 2008 5:58 PM.

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