By Chris Menning
The Library of Congress has issued a 55-page report detailing the successful pilot run of their Flickr account, entitled For the Common Good: The Library of Congress Flickr Pilot Project.
The purpose of this excercise was not only to put these publicly available images online, but also to analyze Web 2.0 staples like tagging and notes and how they might enhance or detract from the value of historic photos.
Prior to the launch of the Flickr account, skeptics within the LC had concerns of their own.
“Would the public conversation contribute to a better understanding of the photos or would fan mail, false memories, fake facts, and uncivil discourse obscure knowledge? Would the
need to moderate and respond to comments overwhelm all other work? Would history be
According to the report, out of the 75,000 instances of tags and comments only 25 had to be removed for being inappropriate. More than 500 of the 4,000 images have been enhanced with factual information that wasn’t originally provided with the photos, such is the case of the Reid Funeral photo.
A photo once simply captioned, “Reid Funeral”’ 2 is now more fully described with the note: “Photo shows the crowd gathered outside of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine during New York City funeral of Whitelaw Reid, American Ambassador to Great Britain. (Source: Flickr Commons project, 2008).
The report also observed a great amount of positive feedback from both the Web 2.0 community and traditional press for providing the opportunity to view the photos for those who had never seen them before. The Library of Congress states that it is, “clear that the existence of these freely available digital materials was a welcome surprise. As suspected, many people have long been unaware of the rich historical and cultural resources available through libraries.”
Over the duration of the project, the Library of Congress also noticed how thier Flickr account has garnered more weight with Google than their official website.
A Google search for the baseball player “Germany Schaefer,” produces the LC Flickr account
photo 1 as one of the top 5 results on the first Google page; the loc.gov version of the same photo does not appear until the 5th page of search results.
The Library of Congress ended their report summary by stating their wishes to continue to use Flickr and participate in The Commons, as well as explore other Web 2.0 communities.
Appendix B from the report outlines seven options that the LC could take the Flickr project into, including adding new Photo Collections, Video, the creation of a virtual reference center, and more.
The Library of Congress will have to decide how to proceed based on budget allowances. More information on the pros and cons of each course of action is available in the full report.
Libary of Congress on Flickr - http://www.flickr.com/photos/library_of_congress/2515741281
Full Report For the Common Good: Library of Congress Flickr Pilot Project - http://www.loc.gov/rr/print/flickr_report_final.pdf
Shorter summary report - http://www.loc.gov/rr/print/flickr_report_final_summary.pdf