Historic Photos and Folksonomies

I’ve long been an advocate of folksonomies. It allows the wider community to add knowledge to resources through tags and comments, ultimately making things easier to find. A number of institutions have allowed free tagging of certain resources for a while now, such as the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, the collective STEVE museum, and of course, Wessex Archaeology’s photos on Flickr.

It seems that this idea is slowly taking off. Flickr have just announcedThe Commons” project. Flickr’s blog post about this project is entitled “Many hands make light work“, which just about sums it up, really. I urge you to read it.

Flickr: The Commons (photo by George - www.flickr.com/photos/george/ )

The Library of Congress in the USA have teamed up with Flickr to put a selection (currently about 3,000 photos from their collection of 14+ million) online. If you have a free Flickr account, you will be able to tag these photos and comment on them. The images are also being geotagged by the LoC staff. The idea of a temporal map view comes to mind…

There are two main aims to The Commons project, starting with the pilot: firstly, to increase exposure to the amazing content currently held in the public collections of civic institutions around the world, and secondly, to facilitate the collection of general knowledge about these collections, with the hope that this information can feed back into the catalogues, making them richer and easier to search.

This could be amazing. I’ll re-quote this snippet from Flickr’s blog:

“..the hope that this information can feed back into the catalogues, making them richer and easier to search.”

This will ultimately benefit not just users of Flickr, but any user of the LoC catalogue. It won’t replace the knowledge of their expert cataloguers, but complement it. This is a great example of how this approach can work both ways to benefit everyone. Read the Library of Congress‘ take on the project.

After all, it’s everyone’s past, isn’t it?


  1. Frankie Roberto’s weblog » Blog Archive » Commons images on Flickr - 18 January, 2008

    […] Tom on the Past Thinking blog has also blogged the […]

  2. Vidi IX « Archaeoastronomy - 20 January, 2008

    […] This is a project to usefully tag a lot of public domain images from the Library of Congress. Tom Goskar at Past Thinking and Manan Ahmed at Cliopatria discuss what this could mean for […]