Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Flickr Commons hits 100 institutions: A visual motherlode & case study

The Flickr Commons--a collection of images that are out of copyright--just welcomed its 100th institution to share old photos in the collection, freely available for use. A seven-year-old project that started as a pilot, the Commons is now an incredible resource for the institutions and users alike.

Here's the great thing about pilot projects, carefully done and beautifully measured: They make it possible for the rest of us to copy what works. Here's the short summary of what Flickr Commons has done:
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 Costic─â 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.
It also reports great numbers for participating institutions in terms of both views of and engagement with their photo collections. Engagement with photos includes free help for the institutions as users are identifying who's in them, who took them, the photographic equipment used, and more:
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.
But you don't need to be a major national institution to see great traffic. The San Diego Air and Space Museum's photo collection on the Commons (including the spectacular shot above) has had 90 million views and more than 1 million tags added to its photos.

Don't let anyone tell you that you can't find good, free photography to use. Not with this collection around. But more important, have you added your own out-of-copyright photos to the Commons? It's a great way to tap into your company, university or nonprofit history, and build a community of fans you never knew you had. Your founding story and throwback photos are a great way to engage former employees, historians, alumni and more.

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