I’ve been using Flickr for several years now as a backup for my photos – the old ones as well as the new ones. Using Flickr’s bulk uploader application, it only takes a minute to prepare a set of photos then send them on their way. If that’s all I did with Flickr, my $25/year is well-spent.
Since I got involved with the Association of Graveyard Rabbits, I’ve been taking lots of photos in cemeteries all around St. Johns County. It was the process of organizing and displaying these photos that gave me a better perspective on Flickr’s capabilities. Now, thanks to sets and collections, I can organize and present my photos on Flickr in a beautifully structured manner.
Right now I have four collections set up. In addition to the cemetery collection, there’s one supporting my research efforts, one for photos I take when we travel and one for family photos. Each collection contains several sets. The set is Flickr’s most basic organizational structure. In the Graveyard collection, there’s a set for each cemetery I’ve photographed.
Each collection has it’s own page. In addition to listing each set in the collection, with thumbnails and links to the set, there’s a space to describe the collection. As you can see, I can include HTML in the description giving me the ability to link back to my site for more good graveyard information. I can also create the mosaic graphic shown in the earlier example as the thumbnail for this collection.
Here’s an example of one of my cemetery sets. Like the collection, each set has its own page. It also has room for a description and a focus image. There are thumbnails for every photo included in the collection. Click on any thumbnail to view the photo page for that image. Notice too, that there is a toolbar for viewing the set as a slideshow and sharing the set with any number of social networks.
Photos are arranged in the set in the order they are uploaded, but I can use the organizer tools in Flickr to re-order the photos any way I want. For example, using the organizer, I can organize my photos so that when displayed as a slideshow they will tell a story. The options are only limited by my imagination.
The photo page gives each image the attention it deserves. Titles, tags and descriptions can be added as part of the upload process and/or any time after the image has been added to your Flickr profile. In this example, I’ve included a transcript of the grave marker in the description. Why repeat it when it’s clearly visible in the photo? The description is searchable while the text in the image is not. Speaking of searching, Flickr’s search abilities are quite impressive. All metadata items are searchable as is the title and description. Tags are especially useful. They provide the keywords every search engine loves to look for.
Not shown in this example, but quite important, is the copyright license associated with each image. While many users maintain full copyright rights, a growing number of people are opting for various levels of Creative Commons licenses which will allow you to use the image if you meet the specified requirements – like providing the owner with proper attribution. Flickr’s search function can include your choice of copyright licenses when defining a search.
This screenshot shows what an image looks like when viewed as part of a slideshow. Some of the basic photo information appears as a floating box over the image.
So, how does all of this fit in with your research plan? Here you see my research collection. There are sets for cemeteries with significant family graves to document. I have one set for family photos and another for documents. The Barker Letters set is a special collection of letters my grandfather wrote my grandmother before they were married. Each of these sets will help populate content at WeRelate, my blog articles and other online research venues. Although WeRelate only supports low resolution images, by linking back to the archival images here at Flickr, family members and research cousins can download a copy if they wish. I include links to the Flickr copy of an image when I use it at one of these sites.
The Photo 411 set is special. It contains photos that I want to learn more about. I’m hoping someone will look at them and add a comment providing information about the photo. Even knowing which building is in the background of the photo of the couple with the amazing bird hat can help me identify who that couple is.
Not only does Flickr provide a very affordable platform for off-site backup for your photo collection, it has many organizational and display features to support your research and presentation efforts. It’s not surprising that organizations such as The National Archives and Library of Congress use Flickr to share some of their collections.