Are you using Flickr to encourage your membership to digitize their photo collections and post copies online for safe-keeping? [See The Flickr Archive.] If so, there are a number of Flickr-related projects the society can sponsor that will help your members learn more about their family history. My favorite is something I call Flickr 411 and it was inspired by Flickr Commons.
The Library of Congress kicked things off Flickr Commons in January 2008 with a pilot project to collect more information about the photographs in their collection. They posted a number of photos on Flickr and invited the public to come view them and, if they knew anything about a photo, they were asked to add tags, comments and notes using the tools built into the Flickr platform. A report on the program released in October included these statistics:
As of October 23, 2008, there have been:
- 10.4 million views of the photos on Flickr.
- 79% of the 4,615 photos have been made a “favorite” (i.e., are incorporated into personal Flickr collections).
- More than 15,000 Flickr members have chosen to make the Library of Congress a “contact,” creating a photostream of Library images on their own accounts.
- 7,166 comments were left on 2,873 photos by 2,562 unique Flickr accounts.
- 67,176 tags were added by 2,518 unique Flickr accounts.
- 4,548 of the 4,615 photos have at least one community-provided tag.
- Less than 25 instances of user-generated content were removed as inappropriate.
- More than 500 Prints and Photographs Online Catalog (PPOC) records have been enhanced with new information provided by the Flickr Community.
Today, more than 90 institutions from around the world share their collections in The Commons. The British Library has posted more than a million photos and graphic images – most of them as public domain images.
How can you do something similar? Easy – just build a Flickr group, invite your members to add photos they would like to learn more about to that group, then start advertising the group publicly to attract visitors. Encourage those visitors to add any information they may have about individual photos. You’ll be surprised at the results.
Using a Flickr group for this project offers several benefits. First of all, your members maintain full control over their photographs. They decide which photos they want to share and can move them in or out of the group at any time. Plus, in addition to the standard comments feature found on all Flickr photo pages, groups also offer a discussion forum. This is a great way to get a conversation going.
The key to this project is promotion. Give your group(s) prominent visibility on the society web site – with links – along with articles describing the project and success stories as they happen. Include information about the project in your newsletters and on your social media sites. Remind members about it at meetings too.
This project will only cost you some time, but the benefits – to both the society and your members – can be tremendous. Your members will discover that Flickr offers more than just an affordable way to protect their photo archives while the society expands the benefits of membership to potential online members researching ancestors in your area.