Library of Congress Looks for Help on Photo Labels

The Library of Congress is uploading a photo archive to Flickr, a popular Internet photo-sharing Web site. The photo archive includes thousands of historical photographs. Many are already on the library's own Web site, but it hopes the public will help them label the photos on Flickr for easier accessibility.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Now, on Mondays we talk about technology. And today, we focus on photographs. The Library of Congress has put thousands of old photographs on the popular photo-sharing site, Flickr.

Cyrus Farivar reports.

CYRUS FARIVAR: The over 3,000 photos that the Library of Congress added to Flickr mainly come from two collections: news photographs from the 1910s and government-sponsored photographs of the country from the 1930s and '40s.

On Flickr, all photographs can be tagged. That means anyone can label a photograph.

Helena Zinkham, with the library's prints and photographs division, says the research is more time-consuming for her librarians. For example, one particular image of an early 20th-century baseball player.

Ms. HELENA ZINKHAM (Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress): Well, it took about several hours to go through the newspapers, to confirm the facts, to check everything else. And that was just for one photo. Well, we have thousands.

FARIVAR: Many blogs have been abuzz with activity, digging through these photos to find new favorites. Flickr itself has been surprised by the level of interest, says Flickr's George Oates. She says that having these photos that mingle with everyday snapshots brings an institution like the Library of Congress off of its perceived pedestal.

Ms. GEORGE OATES (Web Designer, Flickr.com): Having content from the Library of Congress just nestled amongst other photos from anyone else around the world just creates a level playing field, you know? It sort of breaks down that idea that museums are something special and authoritative and, you know, important, you know?

FARIVAR: The library is hoping that by adding photos to a popular photo-sharing Web site, that will make history more accessible to the public.

FOR NPR News, I'm Cyrus Farivar.

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