When it comes to building a photo archive, nothing beats Flickr. Flickr has set the bar by collaborating with a growing number of public archives to make their photographic collections more accessible. The Commons at Flickr hosts collections from The Library of Congress, Smithsonian Museum, George Eastman House, the British National Maritime Museum, the National Archives of the U.S., the Netherlands and the U.K, libraries from Australia and New Zealand and many more.
Why do these archives post their content at Flickr? For one reason it is a very search-friendly platform and by taking advantage of the options for including metadata, each image is even more searchable. In addition, viewers are encouraged to add comments about the images which these institutions are using to learn more about the photos in their collections.
You can get started in Flickr with a free standard account. With it you can upload 100MB of photos per month (maximum of 10MB per photo). Although your storage isn’t limited, your photostream only displays the 200 most recent uploads and you are also limited to 10 groups. A pro account costs $24.95 a year and removes all upload and storage limits. You do have a 20MB size limit for each image, however. Because you can determine the privacy settings for each photo, it is a very cost-effective way to build a personal archive of the images you wish to display and maintain a private archive of your entire photo collection – a much-needed off-site backup of your photos.
The free desktop uploader application (Windows and Mac) found on the Tools page makes it easy to upload large numbers of photos along with the necessary indexing metadata. There’s a growing number of widgets, plugins and applets allowing you to display selected photos on your blog site, Facebook page and any number of other social systems. Of course there’s tons of third-party sharing opportunities, from Lulu calendars to Moo cards to photo gifts.
When building a personal photo archive in Flickr, take advantage of the sets and collections features to organize your photos. Sets are the primary organizational feature, with multiple sets making up a collection. Look at the Library of Congress’ photostream and you will see there are two collections – Historic Newspapers and Historic Photos. As shown above, the Historic Photos collection contains 11 sets. Each set covers photos of a specific topic – Baseball, World War I and Abraham Lincoln are three of them. You can create a new set as part of an upload operation or add your uploaded photos to an existing set.
Each set has its own page with thumbnails of each photo in the set and room to describe the set’s contents. You choose which photo will be the focus photo for the set and can arrange the order for each photo within the set.
Each individual photo also has its own page with description, metadata and user comments. In this photo of Babe Ruth knocked out at a game in July of 1924, the comments provide the entire story of what happened. It’s truly amazing.
If you are considering making your personal photo archive available online, take a tour of the professional archives on Flickr. Not only do they provide outstanding examples of how to organize and present your photos, but they show how Flickr users have filled in many blanks in the stories depicted in the photos. For the personal archive, Flickr offers the tools needed to build an archive as professional as any of these public examples at a very affordable price. A well designed and organized collection will attract viewers and with luck their personal experiences and history will add even more value to your images.