Flickr Update: The Commons

Tue 7 2008

In January 2008, Flickr, the web's largest photo-sharing site, launched The Commons in cooperation with the Library of Congress. The Commons is designed to increase access to publicly-held photography collections housed in museums and archives and to encourage public response to these collections.

The Library of Congress continues to expand its Flickr collections as other organizations join the project. Now an international forum, nine institutions representing the United States, Great Britain, Australia, France, and Portugal have uploaded photographs and collections since January: Smithsonian Institution, Brooklyn Museum, Bibliotheque de Toulouse, National Media Museum, Powerhouse Museum, George Eastman House, Biblioteca de Arte-Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, National Maritime Museum, and State Library of New South Wales.

The Flickr Blog gives background for some of these collections and the institutions that house them. The photographs have inspired historical projects and research as well as prompting comments from viewers. This mashup, for example, combines historic photographs from the Powerhouse Museum in Australia and Google maps to create "then and now" views of Sydney, Australia.

The Commons offers valuable materials for classroom use—including images to illustrate lesson plans as well as to encourage student analysis, commentary, and online publication.

About the Author

Lee Ann Ghajar is a digital history associate in Public Projects at CHNM and a PhD candidate in American history at George Mason University.