Thursday, January 17, 2008

New photo project at the Library of Congress

The Library of Congress is partnering with Flickr to share access of its photo collections. The project is called The Commons, and users are invited to add tags to the photos in order to make them more accessible. According to the Library of Congress, the key goals of the partnership are to give people "a taste of the hidden treasures in the huge Library of Congress collection" and to encourage user to add tags, because "the input of a tag or two can make the collection even richer."

The site says that "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."

I think this is very cool - it opens up access to things that most people would never get the chance to see, and it allows people to chime in with their thoughts and put their own knowledge to good use. As a librarian, I find it very interesting to see the tags that people come up with. We often talk about the disconnect between subject headings in the library catalog and actual terms that people use to search for information. Most people would not enter "cookery" as a subject, for example, when they're looking for a book about cooking, but that is still the Library of Congress subject heading for that subject. When you understand how people search for information, you can make it more easily accessible to them. So this partnership with Flickr and tagging initiative is particularly interesting to me.

Check out the photos they offer - there's a lot of interesting stuff! And if you haven't been to the LOC's website lately, take some time to check it out. The American Memory Project is incredible - I could spend hours just clicking through all the amazing things available there. And just now I found this link to some recently discovered photos from Lincoln's inauguration. There is information on the Library's digital preservation efforts, and even tips on how to preserve your own digital memories. We make lots of jokes about our "tax dollars at work," but here is proof that at least some of that money is being well spent!

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