Workers leaving Pennsylvania shipyards, Beaumont, Texas (LOC)
Originally uploaded by The Library of Congress
Plenty have blogged about the initiative, but what I'm most interested in are the results, and what it means for the way we share collections with visitors both online and onsite.
Consider the difference between these two listings of the same image:
- from the LOC official collection (ugh, no permanent link... so you have to search by the name of the photo on this site)
- from Flickr
The LOC collection listing has title, metadata, and some links to other photos in the related subjects. Flickr has that content (and makes the photo easier to find)... but the gold is in the user contributions, in the form of tags (keywords to describe the photo), notes (comments inserted directly on the image), and comments (presented like blog comments, spanning down the page in time order).
In the case of this image, there are 44 user-supplied tags, 5 user-supplied notes, and 8 user-supplied comments. I know that for collections folks, it's the tags that are drool-worthy (because they form a web of cross-references that can then link this photo with others via subjects like "overalls" which the LOC might never include in their own keywords). But from an interpretative perspective, the comments and notes are where it's at.
One note highlights the fact that the black men in the photo are standing separately from the white men, saying: "Looks like 'quitting time' was as segregated as the rest of life." And here are some comments:
These folks aren't just saying, "nice pic" (except for one)... They're answering each other's questions about the content, sharing personal stories, making socio-political commentaries. They're doing things that don't happen when visiting the real collection, don't happen when visiting the official website... and it's arguably creating a more engaging, more educational experience with the content.
I'm not a photo or history buff, but I got really hooked on some of the emotional stories, feminist debates, and composition observations by users while checking out the photos. The LOC website has very little stickiness, few things to compel my continued attention. Because ultimately, it's not the photos that drive my interest. It's the people.
So maybe this isn't "LOC Rocks Flickr." Maybe it's "Flickr users rock." A nice Friday example of visitors making our content a better place.