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Let’s tag: Library of Congress shares on Flickr

Last night on WOW (Women of the Web), I discovered that the Library of Congress is sharing a wealth of photos on Flickr.  As a former American Memory Fellow I was thrilled!  I know the riches.  I also know how much trouble I have getting students to those collections and, once they are there, gettting them to navigate within.

This pilot project is designed to address many of my issues–to make those LC resources more accessible to a larger audience and to harness the power social networking.  Once it gets going, the LC Commons should demonstrate the potential for folksonomies. It should enable the public to describe, tag, and comment on the images.  The current pilot shares the FSA and Office of War images of the 1930s and 40s and the Bain News Service images of  news in the 1910s.  Among the next candidates for the Commons are the Library’s amazing Civil War images. I really want those.  (And I want those to be accessible beyond the subject browse that so frustrates some impatient 10th graders.)

The Library describes its objectives:

  • To share photographs from the Library’s collections with people who enjoy images but might not visit the Library’s own Web site.
  • To gain a better understanding of how social tagging and community input could benefit both the Library and users of the collections. 
  • To gain experience participating in Web communities that are interested in the kinds of materials in the Library’s collection.

This project will not replace the Library’s website. The rich digitized LC collections will continue to live in more formal, searchable, browsable style.

But, friends, we have a new historical sandbox.  Let’s tag it.  Let’s comment.

Teachers of history, media, information studies, and lots of other stuff can use these collections to enrich learning and teaching.  They can also demonstrate the power of tagging and social networking and, along the way, provide a service to all of us searching for historical evidence.  Tags can clarify local and personal significance. They can highlight student curiosity. 

Will other major archived collections follow with their own loosened tie versions?  Imagine the impact of students tagging the great works of museum art!  (I supposed some jurying might be in order.)

Check out the notes and tags already attached to this collection.

Post script (based on the first comment): 
Are we really going to filter out the resources of the Library of Congress?  What will we do if Flickr becomes the platform for our best archives?

Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza


  1. Barb /falkinburg says:

    I applaud LC for making these available in an easily accessible manner which allows all of us out there to participate in the sharing of this resource. My biggest problem is going to be a common one, I’m afraid: Flickr is blocked by Websense. This is my biggest roadblock to many of these wonderful resources.

  2. joycevalenza says:

    Good point. And another good reason to fight the madness, Barb. The instructional evidence is reaching critical mass and should be too compelling for administrators to ignore at some point.

  3. cheryloakes50 says:

    Joyce, thanks for the detailed information about LOC/FlickR I couldn’t have explained it like this and now I understand even more! There must be a short story at NPR about this, that is where I got the info.

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