A Pictoral Commons

Flickr has initiated The Commons, initially in collaboration with the US Library of Congress.

These beautiful, historic pictures from the Library represent materials for which the Library is not the intellectual property owner. Flickr is working with the Library of Congress to provide an appropriate statement for these materials. It’s called “no known copyright restrictions.”

Hopefully, this pilot can be used as a model that other cultural institutions would pick up, to share and redistribute the myriad collections held by cultural heritage institutions all over the world.

Perhaps this idea will be embraced by Canadian cultural and archival agencies in order to share our common visual history, instead of letting these pictures gather dust.

The notion of putting these artifacts online for sharing may be an idea that’s ready for take off …


… or in other words, we should cooperate for the common good:


I would recommend that teachers covering US history in the periods of the 1910’s or 1930-49 [the two sets currently available], should get their students to check out these photos and contribute some tags to show that the community finds them useful.

Update: Stephen has picked this up and linked to some other comments on this initiative. The fact that these photos are on Flickr is important because it links them to a community that understands tagging and probably includes many people who would not normally visit the LoC site. Flickr may be a proprietary system but the photos are accessible to all.

2 Responses to “A Pictoral Commons”

  1. Patrick Peccatte

    We have a project similar to the LoC pilot project, called “PhotosNormandie”, which is alive since one year about:
    For now, descriptions are in French language and we are trying to improve them. So, we invite comments to get better localisations, better identifications, check and verify information, etc.
    A main difference between the two projects is the following: we are using IPTC metadata that are embedded in our hi-res photos, but LoC does not use IPTC and their descriptions and tags are attached to Flickr platform.
    With best regards

    Patrick Peccatte

  2. Harold

    Thanks, Patrick, I had not heard of IPTC:

    “The IPTC, based in Windsor, UK, is a consortium of the world’s major news agencies, news publishers and news industry vendors. It develops and maintains technical standards for improved news exchange that are used by virtually every major news organization in the world.”



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