Yesterday’s Brainiac column in the Boston Globe, “Everyone’s a historian now,” is about the Library of Congress images on Flickr. Columnist Joshua Glenn admits that asking the crowd to provide identification and information about these pictures makes him nervous, but notes that “so far, so good” and he gives examples of information already provided by Flickr members. “Crowdsourced history — maybe there’s something to it, after all.”
The blog version of this column is called Lost Boston vs. Flickr and it includes more images. Columnist Joshua Glenn asks readers to post more information about these images as comments on his blog or directly on Flickr, although this would have been easier if he had linked to the images on Flickr. Several people have already posted useful information, which he has been posting on Flickr.
I am happy to see how much attention and enthusiasm this project has gotten, although it’s really just business as usual on the Flickr side, where there are many groups devoted to old photographs of all kinds. And the same sort of activity also happens daily on the Shorpy blog, which posts selected photographs from public sources (including some from these Library of Congress collections.) Shorpy has a very active community discussing these photographs, and members also upload and discuss their own vintage photographs.
But all the publicity and success of this project makes this a great time for libraries to add their own historic images to Flickr, as many have already done. You don’t need to be part of “The Commons” to do this — just post them in sets, and let the community know they are there for discussion. For even more exposure, you can also add them selectively and a few at a time to relevant Flickr groups. You can also start a Flickr group for historic images of your community or institution, and invite the public to join and post their own old pictures.
This shouldn’t replace your digital library projects — but Flickr provides an easy way for you to reach out to a large and active community of users. And that’s the great thing about digital objects, anyway — they don’t have to be over here or over there, they can everywhere!