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Library Seeks Pictures of Pandemic Experiences

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This is a guest post by Helena Zinkham, chief of the Prints And Photographs Division.

The Library is collaborating with the photo-sharing site Flickr to significantly expand our documentation of American experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether you use a cell phone, a professional camera or graphic design software, we’d like to see your images of how the pandemic has affected your daily life and community.

We invite you to contribute photographic and graphic art images to the Flickr group “COVID-19 American Experiences.” Library curators will review submissions and select images to feature in Flickr galleries and to preserve in our permanent collections.

As the national library of the United States, our ‘rapid response’ collecting has already secured special projects from nationally recognized artists and photographers. Library staff members have also contributed scenes from the D.C. area.

City Bikes in Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington, D.C. May 26, 2020. Photo: Tracy Meehleib. 

Now it’s time to represent many more parts of the country and many more aspects of the pandemic. Visual images capture documentary details and creative responses that are not easily conveyed through words. Please help us create a diverse collection that can assist future generations in understanding the impacts of COVID-19. All of the photos added to the COVID-19 group will be viewable worldwide.

What should you photograph? That’s really up to you, keeping in mind that we have a family-friendly Flickr account. You might offer pictures related to masks, online celebrations or street scenes. Photos of caring for others, distance learning, new kinds of jobs and daily routines could also work. Pictures that capture grief, hope, uncertainty, joy. The choices are yours.

To participate:

If you already have a Flickr account, go to COVID-19 American Experiences and ask to join this group. Non-members can set up a free account. Then, go to the group page and click the blue “join” box.

Please contribute only images that you have created. When you add up to 5 images to this group, you are giving the Library permission to add your photograph/graphic artwork to its permanent collections and to display them on its websites.

A few additional considerations are described in the Group Rules. Images selected from this group for the Library’s permanent collection will be shared in Galleries from the Library of Congress Flickr account and ultimately you will be able to view the images selected for acquisition on the Library’s website.

The Library is also documenting the pandemic by acquiring books, magazines, newspapers, harvesting websites and other material. We’re collecting the visual documentation of the pandemic as it unfolds. We’ll continue to gather images in coming years once there’s been time for reflection.

Looking forward to seeing your pictures!

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Comments (11)

  1. Keep up the good work.

  2. This Baxter at the beach we have 120 degree heat wave in Altadena California right now , the Pandemic ( Covid -19)
    And the San Gabriel mountains above or house our burning
    We took a morning and went to Leo Carrillo beach in Malibu to breathe some fresh air on a empty beach ,,, and watch the surfers
    Nothing stops surfers from catching some waves
    Christine Bingham
    ( scenic Artist , photographer , painter , mother and wife

  3. I recently saw this exhibit on the news. Are you accepting photos or paintings. I will like to submit my daughter artwork expression of COVID. She is 15 and had no clue of the creative ability. Covid pulled the best and worst of us as Americans! Keep up the good work!

    • Great to hear of a developing artist, and yes we’re still accepting submissions!

  4. Will posting on Flickr require the artist to relinquish copyright?

    • Hi there,

      Checking on this and will get back to you. My initial thought is that no, it wouldn’t.

      • Hi Elizabeth,

        Adam Silvia, who works in the Prints & Photographs Division and helps manage the Library’s COVID-19 project on Flickr, writes with an answer. Here’s his response:

        When you upload an image to Flickr you can choose a license, which determines the rights status of the image and how others may use it. The default choice is “All Rights Reserved,” which means you’re restricting any kind of use without your permission. Alternatively, you can select a Creative Commons license. Creative Commons licenses vary. Some allow non-commercial use without your permission. Others allow any kind of use without permission. Creative Commons licenses, however, still require users to credit you as the creator.

        You can select any license you want when contributing photographs to COVID-19: American Experiences.

        As explained in the group description, the Library will acquire a selection of photographs that are submitted to the group to preserve in the Library’s permanent picture collections. It’s likely that more photographs with Creative Commons licenses will be selected than photographs with “All Rights Reserved,” because the Library can provide access to photographs with Creative Commons licenses through its online catalog. However, a selection photographs with “All Rights Reserved” will also be acquired.

        Hope that clears it up,

  5. Can you advise how to submit a photo of interest concerning the Korean war? It shows my father, who was a country and western musician before being drafted in the army, playing steel guitar with a USO touring band. Its interesting because he is still in combat gear,fresh from a patrol and the woman who he is sitting in for is standing in period western musician costume…thank you. This would’ve been in 1953.

    • Hi there,

      The best way to do this would be to contact the wonderful people in our Veterans History Project. You can reach them online, via our Ask a Librarian service. Here’s the link:

      Good luck!

  6. I hope someone will be collecting the many images of the graphic depictions of Covid-19 cells. They have appeared in most media as a spherical shape with spikey protrusions using all kinds of color combinations, some of which are rather spectacular. But the sheer variety of images is impressive. The images are, of course, a graphic creations, so it may be wise to provide attribution.

    I lack the time and resources to do that, so I hope other folks will do this. Good luck!

  7. Salutations,

    Are you still collecting stories and art? Are you collecting from rural America or Community College students.

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