Flickr’s cultural reach?

A wall graphic from the State Library of New South Wales

This past weekend I spent in Sydney. I looked at some interesting exhibitions, one at the MCA and the other at the State Libray of New South Wales. The MCA exhibition will have had plenty written about it already so I’m not saying much here, or perhaps save for another post. I want to talk about the SLNSW exhibition. Memories in glass, the Macpherson collection.

The works were a fascinating glimpse into Sydney in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. More importantly however and the reason I’m posting this here is the Library’s use of flickr as a tool to aid in the research of their collections. In several places around the wall were direct references to flickr and how other flickr users had added detailed information about the imagery on display. The flickr users had been able to discuss locations, names, and events that would normally been too slow to research using normal methods. The library openly acknowledged the assistance given by flickr users and thanked them. They also admitted that the usual process is to research the images being used for the exhibition BEFORE planning it. This time the flickr community had contributed widely and made this oaf other collections richer in detail as a result.

In September 2017, over 300 digitised images from the Macpherson collection were uploaded to the Library’s Flickr page. This crowdsourcing venture immediately caught the interest of a group of enthusiastic
digital volunteers, who individually (and collectively) identified many undescribed images and details.

The usual approach to cataloguing is to research material coming into the collection before it is digitised and displayed to the public. By digitising first, the Library gave the online community a chance to see these images sooner and add to our understanding of them.


Crowdsourcing gave the Library answers to difficult questions
and offered firsthand insight into the interests of our online audience. We would like to take this opportunity to celebrate the loyalty of our online community and applaud the valuable contribution that virtual visitors can make to cultural knowledge.

From the Library’s PDF

Long live flickr!

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