Tulsa History: May 2008 Archives

If you're a Tulsa history buff, you know the Beryl Ford Collection, which includes tens of thousands of historic photos of our city, many of places that no longer exist. Thanks to the generosity of the Rotary Club of Tulsa, over 20,000 photos in the collection have been digitized and posted online, searchable via the Tulsa Library's online catalog.

It's a clumsy way to explore the collection -- descriptions are minimal, there are no previews of images, there's no way to search geographically, and once you call up a photo, the scan is too low-resolution to make out intriguing details which are visible on the original photograph. (I have to think the photos were scanned at a much higher resolution, but bandwidth and storage limitations forced lower-res scans to be posted on the library website.)

There's a better, Web 2.0 way to make the collection available to researchers, and I wrote the head of collections at the Tulsa Historical Society with my idea:

The Beryl Ford Collection is a tremendous resource, and I've enjoyed exploring the collection on the Tulsa Library website, but looking for specific photographs of interest can be a frustrating experience, with vague captions and clumsy search options. The low resolution of the scanned photos can be frustrating too, as intriguing details which are probably legible on the original are not discernible on the library's scans.

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.

That last point is essential for researchers. I've begun a series on BatesLine.com called "If Asphalt Could Talk," using Sanborn maps, city directories, and old photos to reconstruct what downtown blocks looked like before the upheavals of the last forty years. Being able to search geographically would make it easier to find photos that depict a given block.

I understand that Tulsa Library may not have the bandwidth, storage, or technical wherewithal to provide this kind of presentation. Thankfully, there is already a website that provides this kind of capability: Flickr.

I've been using Flickr for a couple of years now and have uploaded over 3,000 photos. I have a "pro" Flickr account, included as part of my AT&T DSL account, which allows me to upload an unlimited number of images. Each photo can be up to 20 MB in size. There's no limit on the bandwidth used by people viewing my photos.

I have placed about 1700 of my photos on a map. It's possible to search an area for anyone's photos, for photos from a particular user, or for photos with a particular tag.

Since Flickr is owned by Yahoo, which is partnered with AT&T, our local telephone company, they might be willing to provide an account for THS as a corporate donation. If not, a pro account is only $25 per year.

The process of uploading, describing, and tagging 24,000 images would be tedious, but I'd certainly be willing to volunteer, and I'm sure many other Flickr-literate history buffs would as well.

I'm not sure my e-mail went to the right person, but I hope someone will see this and take me up on my offer to help.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Tulsa History category from May 2008.

Tulsa History: April 2008 is the previous archive.

Tulsa History: June 2008 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.



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