The network effect of Flickr's social photography

On April 8, 2008, Powerhouse Museum based out of Sydney, Australia, released their publicly-held historical photographs for access on Flickr, becoming the first museum in the world to do so. Earlier on Jan 16, 2008, the Library of Congress had released over 3000 photos on Flickr.

What is common between these two contributions was that the rare photographs were in the public domain - they had no known copyright and are therefore free to reuse by anybody in the world. It was an effort, not just to preserve the photos (which the institutions were already doing) but to make sure that the public benefits from this material for the commons. Many of the photographs are from the earliest days of photography (late 1800s) and provide a fascinating detail of those times.

The effect of sharing these details has been electric. Here is what these institutions found out:

Power house musuem reported that in one month:

  • They got 39,685 views - “That’s more than an entire year on the old Tyrrell website (which, incidentally, has more images and is better indexed by Google)”

  • 75% of our traffic comes from within Flickr, 13% direct, 10% from other websites linking, and less than 1% from search.

  • Tonnes of tags have been added and they have been of a quality that we’ve not experienced in our other tagging projects.

The Library of Congress blog post and the Flickr one reports that in less than two days:

  • They had 650,000 views of photos!

  • 4,000 unique tags across the collection

  • Over 500 comments!

The advantages of putting photos of the commons out “there” the commons is undeniable. I start thinking about the state of the commons in our country. Even if we take the case of just photographs(amond the many other property of our commons), where do we preserve our photographic heritage in India? How much of it is accessible by the public. By being accessible I mean not just viewing them in a moldy frame in an equally moldy museum, but actually get to use them in our work?

Who preserves India’s photos? Do we have a national photo museum like the Library of Congress? I need to find out more.

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