Category Archives: Local History

Smithsonian’s Database of Outdoor Sculpture (and more…)

Nathaniel HawthorneThis is a photograph I took of a sculpture of Nathaniel Hawthorne in Salem. When I added it to Flickr, I wanted to credit the sculptor, but I didn’t know his name. I decided to try looking this up in SIRIS, a database that I had heard about but had never tried, and I was really impressed with what I found.

SIRIS: Smithsonian Institution Research Information System — The Smithsonian provides access to much more than information about its own collections. The Inventory of American Sculpture provides authoritative information on nearly 32,000 outdoor sculptures collected from a nationwide survey known as Save Outdoor Sculpture. The information and indexing for each work is extensive and impressive.

For example, see the record for the sculpture shown here: SIRIS: Nathanial Hawthorne. The information includes not only the name of the sculptor, but the names of the architect, founder and fabricator, a complete description and references. The indexing is extensive, and you can click on the links in the record to find other works by the sculptor Bela Lyon Pratt, other works administered by the City of Salem’s Public Works Department, or even other works featuring novelists, canes or hats!

These databases should be really useful to people working on Flickr, Wikipedia, blogs and other personal and collaborative projects. They are also useful to librarians for reference and also for local history projects.

Library Postcards on Flickr

Parlin Library, Everett, MassachusettsLibrary Postcards
Flickr is primarily a site for sharing photographs, but there are lots of scanned historical images there as well. Old postcards are particularly popular, maybe because they are readily available, inexpensive, usually have identifying information, are small in size and easy to scan.

The other great thing about postcards is that they were usually taken to showcase the most important, scenic, or otherwise memorable locations in a community. That means there are a lot of postcards of libraries: large and small, public and academic, still-standing and long-gone.

If your library has some of these, consider putting them on Flickr as a way of sharing them with a large community of interested people. This doesn’t have to be something you do instead of putting some of them on your website or in the catalog or digital library,it can be an additional way to share. Using Flickr is simple, fun and easy, and you can add a link back to your library website so people can see what else you have available. You may get comments posted on your images, which can be a good way to gather more information about them, and to allow people to share their memories.

Once you’ve posted your library postcards to Flickr, I hope you’ll take the extra step of adding them to the Library Postcards group I set up there. It’s a good way to make it easier for people to find them.