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For the Common Good

Hello happy reader,

I spend a fair amount of my time wrangling assets or, should I say, helping clients to improve their ongoing imbroglio. For those who can’t afford commercial packages, there are several open source asset management systems available. Consumers, on the other hand, have neither the expertise nor dough to hook up and run any asset management rig. Instead, they turn to one of several consumer oriented services, at least for their happy snaps. Yahoo!’s Flickr is one of these and recently they’ve teamed up with the Library of Congress (LOC) on a fascinating collaboration. For the Common Good: The Library of Congress Flickr Pilot Project is an experiment, as their final report states, to “…participate directly in existing Web 2.0 communities that offer social networking functionality. Reaching out to unknown as well as known audiences can attract more people to comment, share, and interact with libraries.”

More is good since the Library of Congress, “…like many cultural heritage organizations, faces a number of challenges as it seeks to increase discovery and use of its collections. A major concern is making historical and special format materials easier to find in order to be useful for educational and other pursuits. At the same time, resources are limited to provide detailed descriptions and historical context for the many thousands of items in research collections.” The Library also faces competition from the “ever-expanding choices” for the attention of web–savvy consumers. Since the program’s debut, there have been well over 10 million views of the LOC photos, while average monthly visits to all PPOC (the LOC’s Prints and Photographs Online Catalog) web pages rose 20% over the five month period of January-May 2008, compared to the same period in 2007.

I’m one of those folks who enjoy learning about the past and, for me, the Flickr Pilot Project is a doozy. Along with the Library of Congress, fifteen other institutions have lent their assets and expertise in creating a fascinating glimpse into the past. The LOC’s contribution alone illustrates the daily news from 1900 to 1920 with over 1,500 photographs which “richly (document) sports events, theater, celebrities, crime, strikes, disasters, and political activities, with a special emphasis on life in New York City.” New York City? Isn’t that where they make bottled salsa?

Anyway, you’ll find all sorts of crazy shots, from early zeppelins to publicity stills of historical figures, such as Calbraith “Cal” Rodgers, an inexperienced pilot who, in 1911 made the first transcontinental flight across the United States in a Wright (Brothers) EX biplane. George Washington’s choppers even make a showing! Really interesting stuff and, in the spirit of open source goodness, The Commons is designated as an area of Flickr where cultural heritage institutions can increase awareness of their collections by sharing photographs that have no known copyright restrictions.

Check out The Commons for yourself. I think you’ll find something to pique your interest…Until next time, continue to geek.


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