Archive for January, 2009

Henry Ossawa Tanner

Posted by Stephanie Fysh in Best of The Commons

Frederick Gutekunst
Henry Ossawa Tanner, 1907
Smithsonian Institution: aaa_tannhenr_5871

view + comment on Flickr

Read more about the painter Henry Ossawa Tanner.

The Commons includes many images of African Americans in its member collections. We hope you will look to The Commons as a resource during Black History Month.

George Oates’s keynote address, Smithsonian 2.0 Conference

Posted by striatic in News

oates-si-keynoteFlickr Commons founder George Oates recently gave the keynote address at the two-day Smithsonian 2.0 conference. George’s presentation focused on the initial formation of The Commons, the advantages it offers participating institutions, and the efforts of the Flickr community in engaging the collection.

The blog was mentioned, as well as the “Batch Date Changer” and “Greased Commons” tools created by the Indicommons development staff. The Flickr Commons Flickr Group was also noted, specifically for its thorough institution profiles and “Then and Now” projects.

It’s exciting to see an institution like The Smithsonian throw its weight behind a discussion of these ideas. It bodes well for The Commons that institutions are getting increasingly serious about engaging the web in far-reaching ways.

Watch the Keynote Video!

Carnival of the Commons — Pandas, Twitter, Lincoln …

Posted by zyrcster in Carnival of The Commons

New happenings from around the Commons….

Pandas, pandas, and more pandas! Washington DC gets a blast of snow, and the baby pandas at the National Zoo love it. Also, register now for the Smithsonian’s free online web conference on Abraham Lincoln, running February 4–5, 2009.
Lincoln Memorial

The Library of Congress blogs about its new Twitter presence!

1stfans Twitter Art Feed, featuring the drawings of Mary Temple, from the Brooklyn Museum.
Mary Temple
Some of the Brooklyn Museum’s team are in Egypt right now on a dig and they are posting weekly updates to the Brooklyn Museum Blog. Weekly status updates every Friday for the duration of the Dig. Mary, the dig’s photographer, is also sending photos along the way.
Dig Diary 2009

Watch a video of the Biblioteca de Arte-Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian’s Flickr presence.

The Discovery Room, a place for hands-on exploration of the art and science of photography and film, receives a face lift at the George Eastman House.

Australian Trooper Mark Donaldson loans his newly awarded “Victoria Cross of Australia” to the Australian War Memorial. He is the first Australian in 40 years to receive this famous medal, which has also been newly titled. Help the AWM identify people in their set, Who is in this photograph?
Who is in this photograph?
The National Library of New Zealand posts a few search plug-ins to their blog. One click is better than two! Be sure to check out their Panoramas of New Zealand set, as well!
Panoramas of New Zealand
Child’s play: a wonderful new set from the newest member of the Commons, the State Library of Queensland (Australia). Check out their history of the South Brisbane area at their blog.
Child’s play

World War I Armour

Posted by striatic in Best of The Commons

Unknown Photographer
Eerste Wereldoorlog, loopgraven, 1915
Nationaal Archief: SFA022800219

First World War. A French soldier wearing a kind of armour as protection against flying bullets above the trench.

view + comment on Flickr

Clean Up Yer Mess

Posted by Rob Ketcherside in Across The Commons

This is not a reprimand for sloppy tagging, but rather a careful collection of photos that reminds us that cleanliness is next to godliness, and has been for a considerable time now.

Not all library work is glamorous. In this scene, one man operates the flowbee, another risks his lower back by lifting heavy books, and a third scolds them for sloppy work.
New York Public Library
Here are two more gentlemen in danger of throwing their backs out. One’s pumping water, the other’s scrubbin’ on the washboard. I think we got enough water there, Pappy.
Nationaal Archief


On the notion of the Commons

Posted by zyrcster in Articles
Overlanding, from Powerhouse Museum

Overlanding, from Powerhouse Museum

In 1968, Garrett Hardin published a seminal treatise on resources and scarcity, The Tragedy of the Commons. In that treatise, whose title is often quoted, Hardin explains that communal areas such as public grazing lands are depleted by self-interested individuals, overgrazing the limited resource and destroying the public good. Hardin uses a Hegelian notion of positive liberty. As Friedrich Engels said, “Freedom is the recognition of necessity“: there is a moral necessity that government regulate public goods, restricting individual liberty for the sake of individual freedom.

However, as far as culture is concerned, the “tragedy” does not, in fact, exist. Culture is not a finite resource.

Greater participation in shared culture enriches that culture; it does not deplete it. Freedom in this digital age includes the ability to have unrestricted access to public goods, which in turn produces more public goods. Laurence Lessig (among other things, founder of the Creative Commons) has explained this phenomenon at a TED conference on the strangling of creativity by protective intellectual property laws. Lessig frames the problem as a war between the read-only culture induced by copyright laws and an emerging read-write culture wherein creativity is democratized by access to and re-use of prior artistic works.

In a book review of Michele Bodrin and David Levine’s “Against Intellectual Monopoly,” Jeffery Tucker writes, “It seems that it might suggest a revision in classical-liberal theory. We have traditionally thought that cooperation and competition were the two pillars of social order; a third could be added: emulation.” Cooperation and competition are at the heart of game theory and of Hardin’s thesis on the commons.

Emulation — the art of imitation — dampens the effect of competition; but in the digital era, what was once a finite resource — public art ensconced within the walls of institutions — becomes an infinite source of material for creative freedom. This opens an entirely new avenue for culture to flourish, as the public repository of artistic works enables greater individual liberty to create new works.

How is emulation in art possible? When works are available with no known copyright restriction so that new derivative works may be created. How is emulation in knowledge possible? By releasing knowledge to as broad an audience as possible, such that new information can be added and compiled to existing libraries. Use, re-use, re-iteration, creation.

The Flickr Commons is truly a commons for the digital era, opening access to public art and increasing public content, both creatively and intellectually. In the opening keynote of the National Digital Forum 2008 Conference, George Oates talked about “Human Traffic, General Public,” noting how “designing for community can help public institutions create digital value, by creating an engaged, conversational and generous community.” Oates says of the success of Flickr as a social media site that people don’t like being told what to do but people do like to feel that they belong. On Flickr you can choose your own adventure and there is a shared community, where one can interactively collaborate with others. Flickr is designed for users to browse and search photographs, has an engaged community and a robust infrastructure for hosting billions of photos, and is international.

The stated mission of Flickr’s Commons is to increase access to public holdings, share information about them, and interact with the institutions and the Internet. It is, indeed, the perfect new commons — a transformation of a limited resource under pressure from the population into an unlimited resource not stressed by a multitude of creative or intellectual access.

Flickr’s Commons is appropriately named. The more institutions that join The Commons, the greater the position for this single point of entry to multiple academic, governmental, or institutional archives — not unlike WorldCat for library holdings: one stop shopping for archived digitized media. Who benefits? Academics, hobbyists, and artists as individuals. But the institutions themselves also benefit through a feedback loop where knowledge and art are accessible to a wide audience that recursively adds their own knowledge back into the fold. Combined, both the public and the individual benefit from The Commons, with no loss or deterioration to either — no freedom has to be sacrificed by one for the other.

Share your thoughts on this unique resource in the comments. Then go through The Commons — and increase the public good.

This is the first in a series of articles from Indicommons authors that explore the philosophy of the Commons and its public benefit.

New to The Commons: The State Library of Queensland, Australia

Posted by Stephanie Fysh in News

With a Happy Australia Day! from Flickr, The Commons today welcomes a new institution — the State Library of Queensland, Australia, with the first of what we hope will be many of the 45,000 images digitized so far for its Picture Queensland collection, out of an overall photographic collection some 1.5 million strong.

George Jackman
Beach girl Merle Woodward, n.d., Caloundra, Australia
State Library of Queensland: 7708-0001-0082

“Flickr Stay in Commons” Greasemonkey Script

Posted by striatic in Tools

Indicommons staff member and development maestro clickykbd has written a Greasemonkey script that allows people to better browse the Flickr Commons from institution to institution. Greasemonkey is a Mozilla Firefox extension that allows users to install “user scripts” that makes changes to web pages.

Once installed, the new “Flickr Stay in Commons” user script provides the following features:

Browse Commons Tags


The script adds an additional icon to each tag in the list to the right of a Commons photo. Clicking this icon will run a search for the tag across all Flickr Commons institutions.

This is a good way to find many historical photos that are similar to the one you are on, without having to wade through any contemporary photos. Just keep clicking the green circles for a grand tour of The Commons!

Search the Commons


Flickr has a search field in the top right corner of almost every page. The script adds a link to the menu beside this field that lets you use the field for searching The Commons.

With the script installed, you can now run a Commons search from anywhere on Flickr, instead of having to run a search from the Flickr Commons main page or from the advanced search page. When you search The Commons and visit a search result, you won’t have to “back out” to the search page to try a different query. Instead, you can just run the new search from the photo page that you’re currently on.

Keeping It in The Commons

The Commons collection is very well integrated with Flickr as a whole, which is both a blessing and a curse. The blessing in that Commons imagery is included in normal Flickr search results, exposing the collection to Flickr at large. The curse, however, is that if you’re interested in exclusively browsing The Commons collection, it’s very easy to end up accidentally browsing Flickr as a whole.

This script provides the best of both worlds, providing prominent options for Commons searches, while retaining every option for following a tangent into Flickr at large.

Install flickrstayincommons.user.js

Tyrell Today

Posted by striatic in Then and Now

If you spend some time browsing The Commons for long enough, you’re liable to run into the research filled comments of Flickr member lifeasdaddy.

He’s currently taking contemporary photographs around Sydney, Australia, of places shown in historic images displayed on Flickr by the Powerhouse Museum, collecting them in a set. Here are some examples, alongside their historical counterparts.

Queen Victoria Markets (now Queen Victoria Building), Sydney ca. 1900 and 2008:

Powerhouse Museum


George Street at Hunter Street, Sydney ca. 1900 and 2008:

Powerhouse Museum


This collection is in turn part of a larger collection being assembled by the Powerhouse Museum in a group called Tyrell Today, which not only contains lifeasdaddy’s deliberate “rephotographs” but also photographic matches from other Flickr members that have been found by the museum staff searching through Flickr.

Coogee Beach, ca. 1900 and 2008:

Powerhouse Museum

betta design

A Last Tie to Robert Burns in the Age of the Photograph

Posted by Stephanie Fysh in Best of The Commons

Robert Adamson, David Octavius Hill
Isabella Burns, Mrs John Begg, 1771–1858. Youngest sister of Robert Burns, 1843–1846
National Galleries of Scotland: PGP HA 277

view + comment on Flickr