Library of Congress Puts Thousands of Photos on Flickr
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Think only the young and hip are on Flickr? Think again!

The US National Library, the Library of Congress, should be towards the top of anyone’s list of cherished institutions. It’s the largest library in the world – and it would need to be, holding a collection of over 134 million pieces on some 530 miles of bookshelves. A superb resource for historians and researchers alike, from school kids to professionals, the library contains information in a variety of different media, and while all of it is available in Washington, DC., much of it is also available online through their web site.


The Prints and Photographs Division maintains and manages the almost 14 million images in the Library, including architectural and engineering drawings, posters, as well as fine prints and photographs. Over 1 million of them are available online. It’s a copious collection, rich and abundant in its portrayal of the history of the American people.

As a trial project, earlier this year the Library made available around 3000 images on flickr, the popular online photo management and sharing web site. Two photosets were uploaded; each is only a tiny selection of the total collection.

The first photoset is of daily news images from the [Page no longer available – we have linked to the archive.org version instead], taken between 1910 and 1912; 1550 images are available on flickr, with 40,000 available at the Library. Sports is well covered, and other celebrities too. Particularly poignant is this picture of the New York skyline, from around 1910.

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The second photoset documents the [Page no longer available – we have linked to the archive.org version instead], using photographs from the United States Farm Security Administration (FSA) and later the Office of War Information (OWI), which created the images between 1939 and 1944. Over 1615 images are available on flickr, and their colour and quality is stunning, a result of the early Kodachrome development process, which produced rich saturated tones. An example of the architectural photographs is this picture of the Supreme Court. A further 170,000 images in this collection, mostly black and white, are available at the Library.

The process started with high-resolution scans being made of the source image, from glass negatives, slides or photographic prints. These images were captured at a lower resolution, as JPEGs, for posting on flickr. The JPEG images are perfectly acceptable for Web distribution (and there are no restrictions on such publication), but for newspapers and others who wish to publish higher-resolution images they are available directly from the Library.

Making use of flickr’s community, each image was uploaded with a bare set of tags (keywords or labels), along with requests from the Library for additional tags and comments. The response was astounding; viewers have attached thousands of tags.

 

This was a bold and imaginative pilot project from the Library, and we hope it will be followed by many more. In the Flickr FAQ, mention is made of possibly posting on flickr photographs of the Civil War era. Wouldn’t that be worth a few hours of exploration? With the duration of this present pilot project being determined by the user interest and tagging activity, we urge you to visit the Library of Congress flickr site and spend a little time marvelling at the images, and considering the two very different periods of 20th Century American history.

No Paywall Here!
The Internet Patrol is and always has been free. We don't hide our articles behind a paywall, or restrict the number of articles you can read in a month if you don't give us money. That said, it does cost us money to run the site, so if something you read here was helpful or useful, won't you consider donating something to help keep the Internet Patrol free?
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One thought on “Library of Congress Puts Thousands of Photos on Flickr
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  1. Firefox and IE7 users must view these photos using piclens from cooliris.com. It’s a fabulous collection and piclens provides a wonderful viewing experience.

    Thanks to the internetpatrol for bringing the collections to our attention.

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