Flickr 411

The Personal ArchiveIf you are looking for an off-site storage solution for your photo archives, you can’t do better than Flickr. A free Flickr account offers 1TB of storage – roughly equivalent to 560,000 high-resolution photographs – along with a number of organizational, display and sharing features that make it much more than just a backup archive.

First, let’s visit a few of the fascinating users already taking advantage of Flickr’s many features. Several years ago, Flickr created a section called The Commons as a place where archives, museums and other public institutions could display their collections. The Library of Congress kicked things off 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, 79 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.

My Flickr collection is almost 6,500 photographs and growing. Granted most of them are recent photos rather than historical one, but they are still precious to me. Some aren’t visible to the public – Flickr’s privacy settings allow me to include images in my off-site archive that I want to keep private for whatever reasons.

Taking a lesson from the Library of Congress, I have a photo set titled Photo 411 which includes an invitation for anyone with additional information to add their comments. Surprisingly, I haven’t generated the results LOC got, but I haven’t promoted it much either.  I have received a couple of comments though.

I have connected with cousins and other researchers through Flickr. Recently I stumbled onto a new-to-me photograph of my great-grandfather and, using Flickr’s internal messaging system, I was able to contact the owner to discover he was the son of a cousin I hadn’t heard from in years.

Photos from the St. Augustine group on Flickr.

Photos from the St. Augustine group on Flickr.

Another Flickr favorite is groups. There are groups for just about any topic ranging from weddings to cemeteries to locations to colors. If there’s a photo-related topic you find interesting, you’ll probably find a Flickr group for it. Groups allow Flickr users to share photos while still maintaining ownership of them. On a personal level, groups are a great way to collect all the photos taken at a family event such as a wedding. Just create a group and invite all the attendees to share their photos with the group. Each photo is still uploaded to the owner’s Flickr account. When included in a group, it’s also visible there.

The public groups are amazing. There’s a group for my home town – St. Augustine – with almost 700 members and more than 10,000 photographs. I can spend hours wandering through it. In addition to photos, groups also offer discussion boards which lead to some interesting conversations.

Flickr provides an impressive and affordable solution to off-site backup that will quickly become much more than just an element in your digital disaster plan. Stop by today and enjoy some of the magic.