Many collecting institutions have photographs of places and people from a country other than their own. The international content of The Commons and international demographic of the web contribute to fruitful crowdsourcing in these cases. The Brooklyn Museum's photos (lantern slides made around 1900) of the ancient Egyptian city of Thebes have been given several tags in Arabic.
THE GOVERNMENT ONLINE Peggy Garvin Garvin Information Consulting Photostreams 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 [http://www.flickr.com/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 [http://www.flickr.com], 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 www.infotoday.com/searcher September 2009 45 THE GOVERNMENT ONLINE The Commons purses. (Search “suffragette purse” on Flickr.com for homepage 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:// www.loc.gov/rr/print/flickr_report_final_summa
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