The Personal Archive: Flickr

The Personal ArchiveWhen 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.

Florida Memory collection in Flickr Commons.

Florida Memory collection in Flickr Commons.

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 available metadata options, each image is even more searchable. In addition, viewers are encouraged to add their own comments about the images which these institutions then use to learn more about the photos in their collections.

Flickr is a Yahoo property and you can create a free Flickr account using your Yahoo username. Each free account has 1TB of storage available for photos and video. That is the equivalent to more than 560,000 high-resolution photographs. In addition, you control  the privacy settings for each photo,  making it is a great place to build a personal archive of the images you wish to display along with those you wish to keep private. And it provides a much-needed off-site backup of those photos.

A Flickr user page displaying that user's photo sets.

A Flickr user page displaying that user’s photo sets.

Uploading files couldn’t be easier. Click the Upload item in the Flickr menu at the top of the screen and start dragging photos onto the upload screen. From here you can batch add titles and descriptions, add tags relevant to these photos and set privacy and rights options. Need help? Click the New Here? item to display a quick walk-thru tutorial at the top of the screen. Mouse over a step in the walk-thru and you’ll see a number of notes appear on your screen showing you what to do. Once you’re ready, click the Upload Photos button and Flickr takes care of the rest.

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Many of today’s photo-editing apps – especially those with photo-organizing functions – include the ability to upload photos to Flickr. In the example below, you are looking at my Flickr sets from within the iPhoto app on my Mac. Once I’ve added new photos or scanned old ones to iPhoto, all I have to do is select the Share to Flickr option and they are uploaded to my Flickr account.

Looking at my Flickr collection inside iPhoto.

Looking at my Flickr collection inside iPhoto.

Flickr uses two primary elements for organizing photos – sets and tags. Sets are similar to albums in that you must create the set yourself and identify which photos go into it. Tags are keywords you assign to a photograph to describe it. You can add as many tags as you wish to a photo. In addition, Flickr will automatically capture the metadata contained within the digital image file. When your image is a photograph taken with a digital camera, this metadata can include things like the date/time the photo was taken, location coordinates for the photo, the camera used along with camera settings. All these elements, along with the title and description fields included for each photo, are searchable. This means all of your public photos can easily be found by research cousins looking for your ancestors and the places they lived.

Flickr’s Uploader and most of the third-party apps that support Flickr make it easy to bulk edit your photos before uploading to add titles, descriptions and tags quickly. In addition, the Edit button found on your Photostream and Set screens let you rearrange and batch edit photos once they’ve been uploaded.

Not only does Flickr give you an affordable, off-site backup for your photo collection, it can also serve as an impressive archive to attract others. Need some inspiration? Take a look at Florida Memory by Florida’s State Archives in Flickr Commons.

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This article focuses on Flickr’s capability as a personal archive and off-site backup for your family photos, but that’s just the beginning. As you can see from the articles listed below, there’s a lot more photo goodness available in Flickr.

Note: This article has been updated to reflect Flickr’s current features and capabilities.

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