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New York Public Library on Flickr Commons

The New York Public Library has joined the The Commons, the special Flickr program for libraries and museums, who share their collections on Flickr and encourage members of the community to add comments and tags to help describe the images. The New York sets shared here include photographs of dance legend Ruth St. Denis, production photographs from early cinema, travel photographs from Egypt, Syria, Japan and other places, Civil War photographs, a large selection of Berenice Abbott’s Changing New York photographs from the 1930s, and more.

There’s also a collection of Ellis Island photographs, including some striking portraits of immigrants taken by Augustus Sherman, the Ellis Island Chief Registry Clerk. It’s believed that he photographed detainees, persuading them to dress up and pose for his camera — a Greek soldier in his white pleated skirt, Russian Cossacks in boots and fur hats, Dutch women in big white hats. Everyone looks tired and gloomy in these photographs, which is only natural under the circumstances. No names are given, although of course Sherman had access to all that information. I wonder if he recorded the names to match up with the photographs, or if he saw these as ethnographic studies rather than personal portraits? Will anyone look at these photographs and recognize their own great-grandparents?

But perhaps my favorite photographs here are those in the History of the New York Public Library collection, showing the library’s buildings and services. The picture below has the caption: “The Young People’s Librarian points out ‘what to read’ on the list of Books for Young People, published by the New York Public Library.”

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