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Flickr Commons: Happy 5th Birthday!

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The following is a guest post by Helena Zinkham, Chief, Prints & Photographs Division.

Since readers of this blog are fans of pictures, I’d like to introduce you today to the Flickr Commons, where you can enjoy intriguing images gathered together from many places.  Since the Flickr Commons launched on January 16, 2008, more than 250,000 photographs with no known copyright restrictions have been contributed by 56 libraries, archives, and museums worldwide, with new images added each week. The pictures are guaranteed to lift your spirits, spark your curiosity, and otherwise make you look twice.

To celebrate this 5th birthday, I asked the Flickr Commons contributors to share their most viewed or interesting photos. The new galleries of favorites represent well the wide variety of subject matter and time periods as well as the inviting beauty of photography. (Click each image below to enjoy the galleries.)

Flickr Commons Favorites 1

Flickr Commons Favorites 2

Flickr Commons Favorites 3

Flickr Commons Favorites 4

More pictures to delight you also appear in sets and blogs noted in the Flickr Commons discussion group. The Library of Congress special set is called Celebrating Flickr Commons. These images of fireworks, birthday parties, and parades express our excitement at being part of the Commons.

Among the photos that launched the Flickr Commons, this “Rosie the Riveter” image remains one of the most popular, with more than 200,000 views and almost 900 favorites.

Operating a Hand Drill at Vultee-Nashville
Operating a Hand Drill at Vultee-Nashville, Woman is Working on a “Vengeance” Dive Bomber, Tennessee. Photo by Alfred T. Palmer, 1943.

I admit to some bias about the Flickr Commons, because a frequent highlight of my week is choosing which photographs to add to the Library of Congress photostream and then learning new things from the many comments that arrive. People from all walks of life regularly participate and breathe new life into historical photographs by adding identifying and contextual information, humor, family stories, and encouraging appreciation. Many weeks, I also lose all track of time while browsing the wonderful additions from our fellow contributors to the Flickr Commons.

When Flickr launched the Commons with two collections from the Library of Congress, they opened a fantastic opportunity for all of us to enjoy historical images. With two great goals: “to firstly show you hidden treasures in the world’s public photography archives, and secondly to show how your input and knowledge can help make these collections even richer.”

Flickr members immediately took that invitation to heart. Over the last five years, they have created a wonderful community of conversation about pictures, but also left room for individual activity through viewing, favoriting, and creative remixing.

With a big shout out to the current and future Flickr contributors who have so enriched the world of historical photographs.  Happy Birthday!

Learn more:

Update: We’ve added a 5th gallery.

Comments (4)

  1. As my very last assignment in graduate school I did a presentation of social media use at the Library of Congress. A significant portion of the presentation was about the phenomenal success of the project. I highlighted one of the photos from the 1930s-1940s
    Sylvia Sweet Tea Room and surprising connection to one of this country’s favorites treats. Now that I am a government documents librarian, I usually tell the story of this photograph when I speak at public libraries. Happy Birthday Flickr Commons!

  2. When I look back at the last 10 years, the partnership between the Library of Congress & Flickr is by far one of the coolest and most fulfilling projects I’ve ever worked on. I find myself always coming back to it and talking about it.

    Helena, you’re one of my heroes. Your willingness to embrace and experiment with new ideas for accomplishing the libraries goals and then sticking with it is what had made this project so successful.

    I’m excited to celebrate many more anniversaries of this project.

  3. nifty PIC’s, i CAN not DIS-agree, CeNtRiFuGe

  4. I’d come across the above Rosie photo and browsed through your 30s-40s photostream a number of years ago. I actually remember bringing the computer outside on a nice day and just being captured by the outdoor photos, especially the cotton fields of Mississippi. They’ve actually popped up in the back of my mind this morning… so, a quick search later and I’m excited to have found these photos, again, and to see that it’s a source of pride for the LoC and, by looking at the comments, to those personally involved in the project. Happy 5th.

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