Oregon State UniversitySpecial Collections & Archives Research Center

What is The Flickr Commons Experience?

What is The Commons?

In January of 2008, Flickr launched a new project aimed at increasing access to publicly held photography collections in civic institutions around the world. They called it The Commons. The idea was to provide a space for the public to contribute their historical knowledge to compliment the information the institutions already had for these images and to personally interact and connect with them.

There are two goals for The Commons project: to show you hidden treasures in the world’s public photography archives and to show how your input and knowledge can help make these collections even richer.

The Commons opened its doors on January 16th, 2008 with the release of nearly 3000 images from two popular photographic collections held by the Library of Congress. 20 museums, public libraries, and other cultural heritage institutions from around the world have joined The Commons, releasing over 12,000 images to be perused, tagged, and researched by the public. To see a complete list, click here, and watch for a new addition to the list on February 14th as we are set to take our place as the 21st!

Why do we think The Commons is so important?

[from indicommons.org]

Why is The Commons important to the public?

The Commons represents our shared visual heritage. Our culture is enriched by the release of these historical photographs and further enriched by the public’s participation in the collection and aggregation of related historical information.

The Commons also expands creative freedom and enriches culture by pushing cultural media outside of the confines and limitation of physical media and by making this media available with, as is stated on each Commons photo page, “no known copyright restrictions.’ The results of this expansion include remixes and mashups of Commons collections.

Why is The Commons important to institutions and archivists?

Participating institutions benefit from greater exposure of its collections through Flickr’s high profile and its large user base. The Commons also allows participating institutions to harness the limitless power of the crowd to mine otherwise inaccessible data. Photographs from different collections can be linked together, newly indexed, by the public, through Flickr’s folksonomic tagging, providing valuable metadata and increasing the utility of search results without committing scarce institutional human or overhead resources or reducing institutional integrity in collections data.

Why is The Commons important to educators?

The Commons provides educators and their students a wealth of historical imagery and information from around the world. It also allows educators and their students to participate in the historical research and tagging.

OSU Archives on Flickr?

For nearly a hundred and fifty years, Oregon State University has been guided by a three-fold mission of research, teaching, and serving the our communities. We like to think broadly when we think of the word “community” — our neighbors are local, national, and international — and our position as one of only two American universities to hold the Land Grant, Sea Grant, Space, and Sun Grant designation allows us to think up, down, and all around. We are also a Carnegie Doctoral/Research-Extensive university, and nationally known for our top tier programs in Engineering, Environmental Sciences, Forestry, and Pharmacy, which means that the students and faculty at OSU do a lot of research and writing.

In order to celebrate Oregon State University’s rich heritage, the OSU Archives joined Flickr in the summer of 2008. It was a great place for images of current events, virtual tours and instruction, archival happenings, and eclectic historic photos; however, after seeing the connection the general public was having with historical images and the real impact the historic photographs in the Flickr Commons were having on the Flickr community, the OSU Archives was more than eager to join this project with a showcase of nearly 125 images of the Civilian Conservation Corps from the Gerald W. Williams Collection.

The University’s rich heritage is reflected in our great archival collections, and we are thrilled to use Flickr to give you a peek into some of the images in our photographic collections pertaining to the history of forestry and natural resources in the Pacific Northwest. Hopefully, you’ll like what you see and will want to know more — or you might find out that you already know more and want to share! In either case, please contact us with questions, ideas, or information at scarc@oregonstate.edu.

OSU Archives in the Commons

So what will you find in the OSU Archives Commons page? We’re delighted to start our Flickr Commons adventure by sharing a variety of images from one of our most remarkable collections, the photographs of Gerald W. Williams. From the Civilian Conservation Corps to Native American fishing grounds, logging trestles to images of Celilo Falls, the Williams Collections paints a tale of the Oregon outdoors.

In addition to the personal research library and papers of Dr. Williams, our collection of his work includes over 24,000 photographs in a variety of formats (photographic prints, postcards, stereographic images, and glass lantern slides). Spotlighting our focus on the history of natural resources, conservation, and forestry, the photographs in this collection reflect a range of interesting images. This is a history OSU is proud to celebrate; it is a complex story with chapters on forestry, geology, environmentalism, and the people that have inhabited and worked this land.

OSU Archives in The Commons: What to Expect

The Oregon State University Archives is continuously digitizing and uploading a large number of its photographic materials, and Flickr gives us another avenue to share our remarkable images. You’ll find images specific to forestry and natural resources on our Flickr Commons page, current and historic images related to OSU on our OSU Archives Flickr page, and a wonderful assortment of digital collection projects on the OSU Digital Collections page.

As time passes, we will be digitizing and releasing other images that celebrate the land, sea, space, and sun — or at least some of the amazing items that help to illustrate the complicated intersection of culture, natural resources, and history.

  • Feel free to add a tag: it will allow you to find the image again and will help others find it.
  • Leave a comment: if you know something we don’t let us know. Really, leave a comment event if you don’t know anything new — we just like hearing from you.
  • And remember, we take emails, too.

We will regularly add new images and would love your input on them!