Thursday, January 17, 2008

Oh Glorious Library of Congress and Flickr

How the hell am i going to get through all 3,115 and growing photos ?

Via the Library of Congress Blog and Dave Winer's twitter message (how stoked is he because of FlickrFan) - What an AWESOME use of a Flickr Pro account for the Library of glad my taxpayer money is supporting that hefty fee of $24.95 per year ;-) (OK it is a partnership so maybe they aren't paying for a Pro account).

Aside from the fact that we all now have access to great quality images from the archives that many of us would probably never see, the Library of Congress is not only doing this for our own viewing pleasure and to make Dave Winer's photo display application even cooler when we are procrastinating on Flickr - there is a purpose and very important one.

From their blog post:
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.

Imagine telling these young women "Backstage" at the "girlie" show at the Rutland Vermont state fair in 1941 that in 2008, some random person in San Francisco, looking at the photo in the 'cloud' would tag it with the word tuxedo?

Yes. Using user tagging the Library of Congress wants to enhance their metadata. The October/November 2007- Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science and Technology- Special Section on Folksonomies (multiple articles) had a couple of articles on images tagging by end users that addresses tagging images.

Important facts from their FAQs:

Q: How were the items selected/why did you pick these pictures?

We picked two sets of popular images, for which no restrictions on publication or distribution are known, and for which high quality files are available. Because we are also interested in tags and comments on the photos, we picked one set (George Grantham Bain Collection) for which we have minimal identifying information, and another (Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information color photographs) that has some subject indexing.

Calculated choices in order to gather some real use cases for tagging collections. They will be able to compare the usefulness of the tags by matching and comparing a well indexed collection with one that is not.

Q: Will the Library do anything with the tagging info once I add it to the Flickr photos?

The Library will decide what to do with data added through Flickr once the pilot is over. Because resources to update catalog records are limited, the Library cannot promise to incorporate contributed data into its own records.

Can't wait to hear what the final outcome is an how Flickr will be able to provide that data back to the Library of Congress to include 'clean' tags back into their systems.

It also seems that each picture has bibliographic information available (although not segmented but only in the notes field) as follows which is probably the typical current 'catalog' record with their controlled vocabulary (shame that Flickr wasn't able to pre-populate at minimum subject tags)

Delano, Jack,, 1914-, photographer.
"Backstage" at the "girlie" show at the Vermont state fair, Rutland
1941 Sept.
1 slide : color.
Title from FSA or OWI agency caption.
Transfer from U.S. Office of War Information, 1944.
Vermont State Fair--(1941 :--Rutland, Vt.)
United States--Vermont--Rutland
Format: Slides--Color
Rights Info: No known restrictions on publication.
Repository: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C. 20540 USA,
Part Of: Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Collection 11671-3 (DLC) 93845501
General information about the FSA/OWI Color Photographs is available at
Persistent URL:
Call Number: LC-USF35-50

***An important Pilot FAQ on their site:
Q: How long will these photos be available on Flickr?
The length of the pilot will be determined by the amount of user interest and tagging activity related to the materials.

Well what are you waiting for? Go check out some great photos and tag your way into metadata history!


Scott Niesen said...


Completely absorbing...I spent about an hour and half last night fascinated with photos of baseball players, cowboys, banditos, hats of the west. Incredible.

daniela barbosa said...

Hi Scott good to hear from you-

I hope you tagged as you were going along!