Recently, Michel Le Querrec friended me on Flickr. I’m not sure why, maybe to extend the reach of the project he’s working on using the site, Photos Normandie. Apparently the National Archives of Canada (and the U.S.?) are uploading pictures from the Battle of Normandy, more than 2700 of them to date.
I found the photographs fascinating, even though the captions and descriptions are in French, so I friended the site back, and now every day I see a few of these amazing pictures mixed into my photostream. It’s very strange to see thumbnails of dogs, nature, friends, children, libraries, and then the Battle of Normandy, but I find it an interesting use of Flickr and the images usually force me to reflect on how lucky I am in this day and age. For some, it would be interesting to add in streams from Iraq, Kenya, and other places that would bring home the reality of the rest of the world, especially in a classroom setting.
All of which was broiling in the back of my mind when I saw this incredible announcement from the Library of Congress, an institution I have to say I never thought would take this step.
“If all goes according to plan, the project will help address at least two major challenges: how to ensure better and better access to our collections, and how to ensure that we have the best possible information about those collections for the benefit of researchers and posterity. In many senses, we are looking to enhance our metadata (one of those Web 2.0 buzzwords that 90 percent of our readers could probably explain better than me).
The project is beginning somewhat modestly, but we hope to learn a lot from it. Out of some 14 million prints, photographs and other visual materials at the Library of Congress, more than 3,000 photos from two of our most popular collections are being made available on our new Flickr page, to include only images for which no copyright restrictions are known to exist.
The real magic comes when the power of the Flickr community takes over. We want people to tag, comment and make notes on the images, just like any other Flickr photo, which will benefit not only the community but also the collections themselves. For instance, many photos are missing key caption information such as where the photo was taken and who is pictured. If such information is collected via Flickr members, it can potentially enhance the quality of the bibliographic records for the images.
Weâ€™re also very excited that, as part of this pilot, Flickr has created a new publication model for publicly held photographic collections called â€œThe Commons.â€ Flickr hopesâ€”as do weâ€”that the project will eventually capture the imagination and involvement of other public institutions, as well.
From the Libraryâ€™s perspective, this pilot project is a statement about the power of the Web and user communities to help people better acquire information, knowledge andâ€”most importantlyâ€”wisdom. One of our goals, frankly, is to learn as much as we can about that power simply through the process of making constructive use of it.” [Library of Congress Blog]
More info is available here, here, and here. Major kudos to LOC for seeing the opportunity and seizing it. Hopefully the community will respond and help tag the images for retrieval, but it will be an interesting experiment either way. I am very impressed with this effort and can’t wait to watch it grow.