August 03, 2009
By Jessica Pritchard
When it comes to studying history, sometimes a picture says it all. We’re fortunate to live in such a digitally connected era where it seems that nearly everything is at our fingertips—literally! Many Internet users are familiar with Flickr, a web site that encourages collaboration by allowing users from around the world to share photographs and movies online. Flickr has various areas to explore and themes to peruse, such as The Commons, where museums and other international historical institutions create digitized versions of their photographic collections (check out our original Flickr post for more detail).
As with so many other web sites, The Commons continues to grow and expand considerably each month, so we decided to run a follow-up post to include recently joined institutions. The following are descriptions of these newly added institutions.
The New York Public Library “strongly believes that projects like Flickr Commons extend [their] mission to spread knowledge and spur self-education, bringing us into contact with new publics and engaging our existing users in a new environment.” The library’s collection pulls from a wide span of resources. Sample photo albums include Chevys and Pontiacs from 1912-38, Cinema 1912-14, and Fifth Avenue, New York 1911.
The National Galleries of Scotland exhibits fine collections of western art dating from the Middle Ages, as well as a Scottish photography collection from David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson that contains photographs dating from the 1840s through today. General themes include architecture, people, and cultural snapshots.
The State Library of Queensland, Australia has over 1.5 million photographs from the town’s settlement in 1859, including “early pioneer and pastoral activity; relationships between Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders and Europeans; the establishment of Queensland cities and regional and rural communities; changes in the built environment, transportation, politics, fashions and recreational activities; the natural environment; and the people who shaped Queensland history.”
The State Library and Archives of Florida contains resources from the Florida Memory Project, which “provides web-based access to primary records that illustrate significant moments in Florida’s history.” Sample photo albums include Hurricanes in Florida, Spanish American War from the Florida Shore, and Florida Commerce.
The Oregon State University Archives are notable for their concentration on forestry, geology, and environmentalism, created on-line collections that center on just that—the environment. Sample photo albums include Oregon River Basins and William L. Finley Manuscript Collection, a well-known conservationist from the early 20th century.
The Nantucket Historical Association aims to preserve and interpret the history of Nantucket Island. Their archives pull from ship logs, account books, family papers, and scrapbooks, among others. Sample photo albums include Nantucket Brides, Planes, Trains, Automobiles…and Boats, and Nantucket Beaches.
The Swedish National Heritage Board is a government agency dedicated to the cultural heritage and historical environmental issues in Sweden from the late nineteenth century through today. Photographic themes include ancient monuments and churches, urban and rural environment, archaeology, industries, and aerial shots. The Board’s collection on The Commons contains photographs taken by Carl Curman, a popular Swiss doctor and scientist, during his Swiss and European travels.
The D.C. Public Library purchased of over 1,800 lanternslides and glass plate negatives in 1944 from E.B. Thompson, a photographer who started his photography shop in downtown Washington, D.C. in 1904. His photographs consist of federal buildings and memorials, Arlington National Cemetery, national parades, historic houses, and societal snapshots.
The Field Museum Library, an educational organization “concerned with the diversity and relationships in nature and among cultures,” has photographic collections ranging from anthropology, to botany, to geology, to zoology. Sample photo albums include Argentina Geology Expeditions, Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago, and the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition.
National Library, established in 1907, documents Welsh culture through their P.B. Abery photo collection dating from 1890 through 1940 and providing cultural snapshots into life in Radnorshire, Wales.
Getty Research Institute (GRI), located in Los Angeles, California, focuses primarily on visual arts. Their collections contain images of Algiers from 1902-32 and draw “from two GRI library collections: the Cities and Sites Postcard Collection, which features 19th- and early 20th-century images from countries under colonial rule, and the extensive ACHAC (Association Connaissance de l’histoire de l’Afrique contemporaine) collection, which documents the impact and influence of French colonialism on both Africa and France from ca. 1900 – ca. 1957.”
See a complete (and probably still growing) list of organizations that are a part of the Flickr Commons here.
Listed below are a few other institutions that participate on Flickr, but not necessarily on The Commons.
Collections from the Chicago History Museum provide insight into not only local history, but also with American history as a whole. Their digital archives contain primary resources, such as flyers, and modern photographs of historic artifacts, like period clothing.
Although the little town of Plymouth is a bit detached from the rest of England, its proximity to the ocean created a strong local economy rooted in sea trade, which led to a burgeoning middle class that wanted entertainment. The Plymouth Theatre on The Commons contains period flyers and headshots of the theatre’s actors, as well as modern photographs of the theatre as it stands today.
And finally, as mentioned in last week’s What We’re Reading, the U.S. National Archives has joined Flickr. Their collections come primarily from photographs taken by federal agents and include everything from famous American history documents, such as the Bill of Rights and the Emancipation Proclamation, as well as photographs that capture interesting and notable moments in American history, like President Nixon meeting Elvis and the Civil Rights March on Washington.