Images You Can Use – Law Society of Upper Canada and the British Library

The Commons on the photo sharing site Flickr has brought together institutions from around the world to share their images (photographs, illustrations and the like) that are either in the public domain or available for open use.

I was surprised to notice last week that a Law Society of Upper Canada Archives is part of The Commons.

According to an undatec LSUC press release:

The Law Society Archives is pleased to announce that it has been admitted to The Commons on Flickr, a grouping of institutions from around the world that contain archival photograph collections which are available on the Flickr website. The key goals of The Commons “are to firstly show you the hidden treasurers in the world’s public photography archives, and secondly to show how your input and knowledge can help make these collections even richer”.

To see photographs from the Archives’ collection, visit our photostream on Flickr:

Visitors are encouraged to leave comments and additional information that may be useful to both the Archives and other users.

Also making the social media news last week was the British Library releasing more than 300 years’ of images into the public domain via Flickr. I am a bit stymied, though, as to why they are not part of The Commons. Possibly they are gearing up to apply for membership? Their plans certainly extend beyond Flickr.

Excerpts from the British Library press release from December 12:

A million first steps

We have released over a million images onto Flickr Commons for anyone to use, remix and repurpose. These images were taken from the pages of 17th, 18th and 19th century books digitised by Microsoft who then generously gifted the scanned images to us, allowing us to release them back into the Public Domain. The images themselves cover a startling mix of subjects: There are maps, geological diagrams, beautiful illustrations, comical satire, illuminated and decorative letters, colourful illustrations, landscapes, wall-paintings and so much more that even we are not aware of.

Which brings me to the point of this release. We are looking for new, inventive ways to navigate, find and display these ‘unseen illustrations’. The images were plucked from the pages as part of the ‘Mechanical Curator’, a creation of the British Library Labs project. Each image is individually addressible, online, and Flickr provies an API to access it and the image’s associated description.

Next steps

We plan to launch a crowdsourcing application at the beginning of next year, to help describe what the images portray. Our intention is to use this data to train automated classifiers that will run against the whole of the content. The data from this will be as openly licensed as is sensible (given the nature of crowdsourcing) and the code, as always, will be under an open licence.

The manifests of images, with descriptions of the works that they were taken from, are available on github and are also released under a public-domain ‘licence’. This set of metadata being on github should indicate that we fully intend people to work with it, to adapt it, and to push back improvements that should help others work with this release.

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