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Flickr project at Library of Congress

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

Further to the CENDI meeting held yesterday:

Deanna Marcum was the opening speaker of the meeting and her presentation primarily focused on the report on the Future of Bibliographic Control and her response to the report.  One of the recommendations of that report was that libraries should invest in making available their special collections.  One thing that LC has in abundance is special collections.

Deanna discussed the pilot project on Flickr to post digitized images on the service and encourage public tagging of the images.  The pilot includes scans of “1,600 color images from the Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information and 1,500+ images from the George Grantham Bain News Service.”  As of today the project has 4,665 items on Flickr.  The group has had great success in getting thousands of people to tag and enrich the images with descriptions.  In bouncing through a number of images, most of them looked like they’d received more than 2,000 views each.  That translates to more than 9 million views (although I could be overshooting the toal just because of a very small sample size) — although I know from my own account, there’s a lot of double-counting of reloading of pages.  Regardless, this is terrific amount of visibility for an image collection that many wouldn’t be able to see before they was digitized.

In glancing through the tag list that have been added to the images, I expect that there is much that would concern a professional cataloger.  Many of the tags conform to the odd space-less text string convention on Flickr.  Also, from the perspective of making images easier to find, I’d say the results are mixed.  LC will be producing a report of their results in “in the next few weeks” (per Deanna).

Finally, I’m not sure that providing public-domain library content to freely to commercial organizations is in the best interests of the contributing library.  This follows on some further consideration of my post yesterday on Google’s settlement with the publishing and authors communities for the Google Book project.

After the meeting, I took the opportunity of being at the LC to see their exhibition on Creating the United States.  Yesterday was the last day of the exhibition, so unfortunately, if you hadn’t seen it already, it will be “a number of years” before LC brings back out of the vaults the Jefferson draft of the Declreation of Independence.  Along with the exhibition on the American founding, they also have on display, the Jefferson library collection and the  Waldseemüller maps.  These items are among most important maps in the history of cartography, which were the first to name the landmass across the Atlantic from Europe “America” in 1507 and 1516.  I believe the maps will continue to be on display for sometime.  I encourage anyone in the area to stop in and take a look.