Photostreams to the People by ProQuest


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									THE GOVERNMENT ONLINE                                                                                                      Peggy Garvin
                                                                                                                Garvin Information Consulting

to the People
The Commons on Flickr

Real-life “Rosie the Riveters” assemble World War II
bombers. The Prince and Princess of Wales relax with
friends at their summer lodge in August 1863. In a
photo of an engraving, sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens
is at work in his studio. A 1919 panorama captures the
desolation of Flanders Field post-battle, and a 21st-
century satellite observatory shows us a galaxy 64
million light years away.

                                                              Title of this 1943 Library of Congress photo is
                                                              “Operating a hand drill at Vultee-Nashville,
                                                              woman is working on a ‘Vengeance’ dive
                                                              bomber, Tennessee” (Library of Congress).

L    osing track of time is easy when you are exploring Flickr’s
     The Commons []. You can
flip from one fascinating photo to the next, imagining you are
                                                                      normal Flickr community guidelines tell members: “Don’t
                                                                      upload anything that isn’t yours … this includes other people’s
                                                                      photos,” which is not a possibility for the institutional vast col-
sitting in one of those hushed, old brick-and-mortar libraries        lections of photos taken by others.
poring through stacks of beautiful picture books. But The Com-           Creating a special section on Flickr unites the institutions and
mons is not exactly like that. Would you scribble caption correc-     their collections under one umbrella with a shared mission. In
tions or personal reminiscences in those beautiful books? Or cut      introducing The Commons on the Flickr blog, Yahoo! project
out that photo of the old Penn Station and paste it onto your         lead George Oates wrote:
Manhattan map in the place it used to be? Users can do the               There are two main aims to The Commons project, starting
equivalent with The Commons, an example of innovation                    with the pilot: firstly, to increase exposure to the amazing
sparked by a government library, the Library of Congress (LC).           content currently held in the public collections of civic insti-
    Flickr [], the photo-sharing website            tutions around the world, and secondly, to facilitate the col-
owned by Yahoo!, provides The Commons as a service to enable             lection of general knowledge about these collections, with
cultural heritage institutions to share photography collections          the hope that this information can feed back into the cata-
online. The Commons is separate from the main Flickr site                logues, making them richer and easier to search.1
because government agencies and other institutions with pub-             On The Commons, registered Flickr members can add their
licly held collections require different terms of service and dif-    own comments and tags. Aside from unending echoing of
ferent functionality than individuals or groups. For example,         “Cool!” and “Great shot,” the comments make for interesting                                                                                                 September 2009       45

The Commons                                                             purses. (Search “suffragette purse” on for
                                                                        examples.) The Commons uses a “no known copyright” state-
                                                                        ment that makes it possible for LC and other institutions to par-
                                                                        ticipate. The LC project team’s October 2008 report, “For the
                                                                        Common Good: The Library of Congress Flickr Project” [http://
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