Finally, personal archives are getting the attention they deserve! That’s the good news. The bad news is that the commercial archives and a number of other institutions are busy trying to take advantage of the growing number of personal collections being digitized. After looking at a few of their terms of service, I have concerns about posting anything on their sites.
This is a area where local societies can shine. Our members are looking for help in organizing, managing and protecting their family treasures. We can do this! And, we can do this without taking control of their rights to their collections.
That’s where Flickr comes in. Flickr is an online photo-sharing platform owned by Yahoo! It just celebrated its 10th anniversary so it is well established. It is also home to The Commons – a place where public institutions from around the world are displaying some of their collections. Flickr is free to use and offers each user a 1TB storage limit for photos, images and video. This equates to more than 560,000 high-resolution photos. That alone makes Flickr a great option as an off-site backup storage location. But there’s more!
- Flickr does not reduce the size or resolution of images uploaded to the service.
- Metadata like geotags and camera information are also maintained.
- Flickr users control the privacy settings for each image – making them private, public or visible only to selected users.
- Each image has it’s own “photo page” and has facilities for adding titles, descriptions and additional metadata. Depending on the privacy settings, other users can add their own comments too.
- There are a number of editing and organizational tools available to Flickr users as well as desktop and mobile apps to facilitate uploading images – even bulk uploads.
- Users set the licensing policy for their images which will determine what – if any – sharing options will be available for that image.
- There is an internal messaging system so Flickr users can communicate with each other.
- The descriptions and metadata make Flickr a very search-friendly platform.
- There are a number of social features available within the Flickr platform.
Using one of those social features – Groups – your society can both support your members and benefit from their archival effort without forcing them to give up any of their rights to their collections.
Flickr’s group feature offers users an easy way to share their photos without giving up control. A user joins a group and then adds one or more photos to the group. You will find thousands of groups on Flickr, ranging from locations to topics and all kinds of things in between. Flickr offers three kinds of groups: public, anyone can join; public, by invitation only; and private. Once a member of a group, adding photos is as simple as clicking the Add to a Group command from the More actions menu on a photo page. The privacy settings of the photo will impact its view in a group. For example, a photo set as private will only be visible to its owner and members of the group where it is shared.
By encouraging members to take advantage of Flickr’s off-site storage, societies can use groups to help them share selected images in a controlled environment without giving up any rights to their collection. The society builds and administers groups allowing members to spotlight and share. These groups can be part of the society’s “permanent” collection or you can schedule special “exhibits” focused on a specific topic. Groups can be used to help members gain additional knowledge about their old photos by inviting the Flickr community to add comments to a selected group of photos. The Library of Congress has done this on Flickr with great success.
How does this serve the society and its membership?
- It generates interest in digital preservation.
- It demonstrates the value of personal archives.
- It provides access to personal archives with minimal cost and effort.
- It adds value to society membership.
The features available on Flickr make it easy for a society to add focus to the importance of personal archives, offer members support in their digitization, organization and management efforts and help them share the results of their efforts. Why wouldn’t you be interested?