Forgotten Photos

Posted by striatic in Statistics

Patrick Peccatte of the incredible PhotosNormandie has followed up on his metadata statistics for all Commons institutions by providing statistics on photos in The Commons which have received little attention. If you’re interested in helping to add tags or comments to any of these “forgotten” photos, his new post contains a comprehensive list of links to photos of this kind.

Patrick searched 18,290 photos across all 19 Commons institutions, finding that 5,123 had not received any comments, notes, or tags from Flickr members. That’s fully 28% of the total collection. While that seems like a large percentage, the underlying numbers are more informative. The Commons collection is very large in many respects, but it is still small enough that certain outliers skew the average significantly, as we will soon discover.

Let’s take a look numbers institution by institution, examining how many photos out each collection have not received any tags, comments, or notes. [Data collected on February 11, 2008]

Large Collections

Library of Congress – 44 out of 5,421 (0.8%)
Brooklyn Museum – 167 out of 2,554 (7%)
Smithsonian Institution – 327 out of 1,414 (23%)
Powerhouse Museum Collection– 336 out of 1,101 (30%)
New York Public Library – 561 out of 1,300 (43%)

The Common’s largest and oldest contributor, The Library of Congress, has had tremendous success in attracting attention and metadata from Flickr members. Less than 1% of their collection on Flickr goes without comments or tags from Flickr members. The Brooklyn Museum has had comparable success.  These institutions demonstrate that it is possible to maintain large collections while virtually no photos fall through the cracks. The Smithsonian Institution is also above average, although less obviously so.

The Powerhouse Museum has a primarily regional focus (Australia), which sets it apart from the other large collections, and falls slightly below the average rate of Flickr member contributions. The NYPL is relatively new to The Commons and has uploaded many photos in a short period. It may require time before the Flickr community discovers and interacts with these photos.

Mid-Sized Collections

State Library of New South Wales – 1 out of 250 (0.4%)
George Eastman House – 60 out of 592 (10%)
Nationaal Archief – 141 out of 590 (24%)
Library of Virginia – 93 out of 314 (30%)
Musée McCord Museum – 86 out of 236 (36%)

These collections, between 200 and 1,000 photos in size, show a wide range of activity. The State Library of New South Wales behaves like some of the smaller, more concentrated collections in The Commons. George Eastman House has a broad focus, more like the Library of Congress and Brooklyn Museum, with comment/tag rates to match. The Nationaal Archief is about average, but had Flickr member tagging disabled until very recently.

Like the Powerhouse Museum, two regionally focused collections fall below the average. Musée McCord Museum focuses on Canadian history, and The Library of Virginia focuses on the state of Virginia.

Small Collections

Imperial War Museum – 0 out of 10 (0%)
Australian War Memorial – 1 out of 42 (2.4%)
National Galleries of Scotland – 8 out of 107 (7.4%)
National Media Museum – 16 out of 130 (12 %)
National Library of New Zealand – 36 out of 161 (22%)
National Maritime Museum – 48 out of 191 (25%)
State Library of Queensland – 83 out of 152 (55%)

These institutions are pretty much all above average. The State Library of Queensland provides an exception but is so new to Flickr that it almost shouldn’t be in this list.

Smaller collections concentrate activity, and fewer of their photos are missed by Flickr members.

Non-English Collections

Bibliothèque de Toulouse – 378 out of 652 (58%)
Biblioteca de ArteFundação Calouste Gulbenkian – 2,745 out of 3,073 (89%)

60% of all untagged and uncommented Commons photos are from these two institutions, which are both from non-English-speaking countries. The outlier statistics from Biblioteca de Arte–Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian require a bit of context, however. Unlike most Commons institutions, The Biblioteca uploads photos with a thorough set of tags, applied by library staff. It may be that these photos don’t need as much metadata from Flickr members, and thus receive less.


The analysis presented here is very simplistic, and reaches for only the most simplistic conclusions.

Smaller collections become easily saturated with tags and comments, but very large collections are also capable of similar saturation. Regionally focused institutions have challenges drawing activity through the entirety of their collections if they grow beyond a certain size, and institutions from non-English-speaking nations seem to have even greater challenges in this regard.

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6 Responses to “Forgotten Photos”

  1. Paulo Leitão Says:

    a little beat more about the collections from Biblioteca de Arte – Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian. In fact, we can input a great number of tags in our collections in the Commons, because de work of identification has been done allready. For instance, in the last years there was been to mutch investigation about the painter Amadeo de Souza Cardoso.
    However, it’s interesting to see the differences between our tags and user tags.
    Best regards
    Paulo Leitão

  2. zyrcster Says:

    Paulo, good to know! I’m hoping to spotlight your institution to bring more users through your collection, who will hopefully add some tags, too.

  3. Shelley Says:

    Note: I believe Patrick is querying the entire Brooklyn Museum account, not just our Commons material. This is a little like comparing apples to oranges. For instance, for non-Commons material, Brooklyn Museum staff do all the tagging and there is a lot of it. For Commons material we leave the tagging to others. So, this number is out of whack Brooklyn Museum – 167 out of 2,554 (7%) if we are trying to make a direct comparison. Striatic, I don’t know if you’ve had contact with Patrick or not, but it might be worth trying to explain so we can see apples to apples. If not, we need to always remember to note these issues when dealing with institutions who have blended accounts.

  4. zyrcster Says:

    Shelley, an excellent point. I encourage you to bring this up in the Flickr Commons group:

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