500 years of historic photos added to Flickr Commons

Millions of previously forgotten photographs dating back to the 16th century have been dug up and put in an album for anyone around the world to see on Yahoo-owned photo sharing site Flickr.

The photos, added to a new Flickr Album titled Internet Archive Book Images, were compiled by American academic Kalev Leetaru who sourced the images from The Internet Archive’s digital library that contains more than 600 million library book pages dating back to the year 1500.

Leetaru began working on the project at Georgetown University in Washington DC while researching International Values, Communications Technology and the Global Internet as part of a fellowship sponsored by Yahoo.  

The Internet Archive consists mostly of digitised texts, with hardly any images linked to the text that one could easily search for and see. 

“For all these years all the libraries have been digitising their books, but they have been putting them up as PDFs or text searchable works,” Leetatu told the BBC. “They have been focusing on the books as a collection of words. This inverts that. Stretching half a millennia, it’s amazing to see the total range of images and how the portrayals of things have changed over time,” he added.

According to Flickr, The Internet Archive processed more than two million volumes from its digital archive, compiling more than 14 million high-resolution images spanning nearly every topic imaginable from the 16th to the early 20th century. Each image includes detailed descriptions, including the subject tags of the book it came from and the text immediately surrounding it on the page.

“Through the power of big data we are suddenly able to view the world’s books not as merely piles of text, but as individualized galleries of one of the richest and most diverse museums of imagery in the world,” the company says.

Two million images have already been added to the album with more to come over the next few months.

[Source – BBC, Flickr, Image – CC SDASM Archives]


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