The Flickr Commons turned seven this January and today we’ve welcomed the 100th institution to the digital collection. The goal of the Commons is to help institutions share their out-of-copyright images with the world and to get the Flickr community and the general public to engage with the images by adding tags and comments, as well as sharing the images broadly.
The Flickr Commons was started in 2008 when we joined with the U.S. Library of Congress for a pilot project. Since then, it has grown to include galleries, libraries, archives, and museums around the world, from small volunteer projects like the Costică Acsinte Archive, to the millions of images uploaded by the British Library.
In total, there are more than 4 million images in the Commons. The collection has been viewed more than 1.3 billion times and the Flickr community has added 53 million tags, 1.5 million faves, and 220,000 comments.
Beyond the statistics, the benefits to the participating organizations are myriad, and most report seeing very large increases in page views and engagement with their digital collections.
The Library of Congress, for example, noted in this blog post that they have had 178 million views to their account, as well as more than 60,000 followers. They have also had great feedback from the Flickr community, including useful metadata added to nearly 7,000 of their images. “For the Library of Congress, Flickr is still the best way to get new, verifiable information to describe our old photos,” said Helena Zinkham, Chief of the Prints and Photographs Division.
Smaller organizations like the The Cloyne and District Historical Society, Cloyne, Ontario Canada, have told us that their museum and archive website traffic has more than doubled since joining. “Flickr Commons has been such a remarkable tool for us!” said Ken Hook, a volunteer with the society. “We are now able to share our photos and documents with the world and receive useful comments from viewers. It has given me personally a renewed interest in our history, as I have been responsible for building and populating the site.”
Perhaps because of the popularity of airplanes and space images on Flickr, the San Diego Air and Space Museum has had more than 90 million views and more than 1 million tags added to their photos. “The aviation community is very enthusiastic and loves to spend hours finding as much information about a particular image as they can,” said Digital Archivist Alan Renga. “The public has been so helpful in helping to identify aircraft, people, places, and things. We have identified literally thousands of aircraft with the public’s help.”
For the largest account in the Flickr Commons — the Internet Archive Book Images Project, with 2.8 million images now and 14 million images to be uploaded in total — Flickr’s search and vision technology transforms the way the public experiences their images. In addition to metadata added by humans, Flickr can recognize what’s in the photo, which greatly expands relevance and adds remarkable new intelligence to search (this blog post has a good explanation of the deep learning technology we employ). This means you can search for a term like “beard” and see at a glance 500 years of historical images, even if those images don’t have metadata that would otherwise surface them in search.
Throughout the years, several former Flickr staff members were instrumental in keeping the Commons flame burning brightly, and without their efforts we wouldn’t be able to celebrate this milestone. Kudos to George Oates, who was key to starting the Flickr Commons. We also send a special thanks to Daniel Bogan and Kay Kremerskothen, who worked with new institutions to answer their questions and help them achieve their goals on our site. Thanks guys!
If you are an administrator at a GLAM and you’re interested in joining the Flickr Commons, you can register and find more information at our Commons portal here.
We’re so happy to share this milestone with our current institutions and we look forward to adding the next 100!