Thursday, January 17, 2013

Five Years Of Flickr Commons


This week, the Flickr Commons celebrates its 5th Year Anniversary. Since launching over half a decade, ago The Commons has helped propagate unique and beautiful photographs from different educational institutions around the world, all for free. Here is a sampling of the anniversary galleries of Flickr Commons' Five Year Anniversary Celebration.


The Flickr Commons was launched on January 16, 2008 in order to present "hidden treasures in the world's public photography archive". The initial images showcased in partnership with The Library of Congress was aimed at improving the accessibility of publicly held photographs, and to allow the general public to contribute information about these photographs.

Since its inception, the library of photographs and images has grown to over 250,000 from 56 libraries, archives, museums and educational institutions around the world. Some of the other participating organizations include the Smithsonian Institution, the George Eastman House, the New York Public Library, and NASA on The Commons.


Normally, any photograph whether or not it's on the Internet is protected by copyright. This legal protection (usually for a limited time only) gives the photograph creator, owner or copyright holder the right to be credited for his work, decide when and where it can be used, and who can gain monetary income from it.

In The Commons' case, the images come with "no known copyright restrictions". This is either because the copyright has already expired and the work is now in public domain, or the institution which owns the copyright is no longer interested in exercising control over the work.

Of course, the statement is not foolproof as copyright law varies from country to country. These organizations also cannot guarantee that all images are in public domain as some of them lack proper documentations. Still, these institutions are providing these images for free as they believe to the best of their knowledge that they are not violating anyone's copyright through the sharing of these photographs.


Over the five years since its launching, The Commons has given greater access to images that would normally only reside in museums and libraries. Their availability and descriptions have also been improved by the tags and comments left by viewers around the world. So far, there are now over 2 million tags and 165,000 comments accumulated by The Commons images.

These images here represent the garnered the most views, comments or favorite marks by viewers, and were selected by the different Commons member institutions themselves. The Commons still accepts photographs and images every day, but the most effective way for the ordinary viewer to add to body of work is to leave insightful comments and tags to the photographs already in the archive.


Visit the Flickr blog to find out more about five year anniversary of the Commons on Flickr. The full galleries can be viewed here, here, here, and here. For some previous features from the Library of Congress, check out Bound for Glory - Color Pictures of Old AmericaSergey Prokudin-Gorsky - The Glory that was the Russian Empire and The Glory That Was Kodachrome.

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