Imaging Interactive Media User experience

Next generation of Photosynth-style image interaction – Bundler

Last year there was a lot of buzz around the first demos on Microsoft’s Seadragon and Photosynth, now from SIGGRAPH08 comes this rather splendid update to underlying technologies and concepts.

There is now a lot more ability for users to navigate and tweak their experience of interacting and browsing a 3D scene using miscellaneous 2D images. I was particularly impressed by the notion of using other people’s photos (from Flickr) to act as the intermediaries in scene reconstructions from your own photos; and the very final simple demo of creating a 3D model of an object by processing a series of handheld 2D images – this would greatly reduce the costs of 3D digitisation for museums.

The toolset used in this new version of the underlying technologies, Bundler, has also been released, so if you have some computer science graduates working in your team you could feasibly give it a burl.

Bundler takes a set of images, image features, and image matches as input, and produces a 3D reconstruction of camera and (sparse) scene geometry as output.

Imaging Social media

Modern Times exhibition on Flickr

Last week we started another experiment on Flickr.

At the moment we have an exhibition, Modern Times, which is about modernism in Australia. The exhibition is a quite spectacular mix of objects – including a lovely set of milkbar seats to sit on (!!) – and ends with a triple projector immersive audio-visual experience produced by our Image Services Department. The immersive pulls together contemporary photography taken by our Image Services team and presents them much like the immersive AV that was made for the Great Wall of China exhibition.

As these photographs are so integral to the exhibition, and we’ve been making a lot of new acquaintances in Flickr it made perfect sense to open up a Modern Times group on Flickr and invite exhibition visitors and Flickr users to contribute their own photographs of modernism in Australia to the group. The Museum is planning some interesting things with these visitor-contributed photographs and the Image Services Department is managing the project.

Take a look at what has come in so far and feel free to contribute.

Folksonomies Geotagging & mapping Imaging open content Web metrics

Commons on Flickr – a report, some concepts and a FAQ – the first 3 months from the Powerhouse Museum

The first three months of having images from the Tyrrell Photographic Collection in the Commons on Flickr have been very interesting. We launched on April 8 with 200 images and have been adding more each week since.

At the 12 week mark we had 600 photos uploaded, mostly location photography with just under 50% geocoded. Whilst we promised at the outset to upload 50 a week we had to break that promise around week 5. As we began to see which images were being viewed more than others or attracted more comments than others we started to look for similar images in the Tyrrell Collection – many of which had not yet been digitised and catalogued. This extra digitisation and cataloguing reduced the uploads of some weeks to just 25 new images. On the upside, though, this also means we have a large number of already digitised images held back for weeks when key staff are going to be on leave.

Splash! Playable collections

In the first 4 weeks of the Commons we had more views of the photos than the same photos in the entirety of last year on our own website. It wasn’t as if we made the images on our own website all that hard to find – they were well indexed on our own site by Google, they were made available to the national federated image search/repository Picture Australia, and they also existed in our OPAC. Still, that was no match for Flickr.

Flickr’s roots in MMOG ‘Game Never Ending‘ makes it the ideal place for cultural institutions to explore the notion of ‘playable collections’. The social norms and community behaviours that have emerged and are encouraged around image content in Flickr (as opposed to other photo sharing sites) enable historic photographic collections to become game entities. Albeit with a slightly different rule set.

In the Commons images lose the boundaries placed on them by collecting institutions. They take on new contexts and meanings, and they become maleable. All images in Flickr take on these more fluid characteristics, but in the Commons they way others see, respond and interact with these images is slightly different.

In fact I think it is really important to point out the difference in observed behaviours between our photos in our standard Flickr account. I’m not sure how the other institutions who are contributing to the Commons are finding it, but we’ve noticed that there seems to be a difference in behaviour and social norms in tagging and commenting on our Commons images versus our other images. Presumably the obvious ‘historic’ nature of the images combined with the fact that the institutions aren’t the photographers has an effect on this.

The global reach of Flickr and its active international user base (although far from evenly distributed proportional to online population) is impressive. Although our collection is very much focussed around Sydney and NSW, we’ve still managed to attract some tagging in other languages. Other Commons contributors have far more international images and should be drawing more internationalised tags and comments.

What are people doing?

The Commons has several obvious types of engagement from the point of view of a contributor. I hesitate to put these into ‘levels’ because almost everyone does each of them. The first seven, at least, are integral to the ‘game play’ of Flickr and should be judged against the rule set of the game system itself, rather than necessarily against outside behaviours.

Visitors can engage in –

1. Viewing

Viewing comes in many forms and can be counted when those views occur on Flickr. This is the simplest but also least useful way of measuring the project. What is useful about view data, however, is the ability to track the trends and patterns in viewing and observing when and deducing why certain images generate more views at a particular time.

2. Favouriting (“bookmarking”)

“Favoriting” (US spelling) on Flickr is the equivalent of bookmarking. Flickr users ‘favourite’ for many reasons and this is another very simple measure of the relative popularity of an image. It is important to understand that whilst an image may be ‘favourited’ by many different users the reasons for their ‘favoriting’ are not revealed. Again, it is through observing bursts of favouriting of the same object by multiple users, or the favouriting of many objects by the same user that potentially reveals more.

3. Friending (“I am interested in seeing more/connect with me”)

Friending on Flickr identifies a desired but not necessarily reciprocal relationship between the ‘friender’ and the ‘friendee’. The Powerhouse decided after a few weeks to reciprocate all friend requests and we also look at the photos taken by our ‘friends’ and where appropriate tag, comment, and ‘favorite’ their images too. This social reciprocity is really important but also time consuming.

At 12 weeks we had hit 612 ‘friends’. Each of these friends now gets visual notification of new images we upload.

4. Social commenting (“here I am”)

I’m calling the comments that say ‘awesome photo’ or ‘cool picture’ as social commenting. This is a really loose way of describing comments that are really about leaving a linkback-ed mark of a visit. Akin to an “I woz ere” but in a more networked way.

On Flickr this social commenting acts as the ‘social glue’ that binds the communities that play the ‘Flickr game’, together. Whilst it is very tempting for museum professionals to downplay or scoff at this sort of interaction, it might be useful to think of these sort of comments as playing a role akin to comfortable seating or a nice cafe in a museum gallery.

5. Tagging (“let me help”)

Because the Commons specifically asked the Flickr community to ‘help tag’ images the tagging that is done within the Commons tends to generate some pretty useful additional metadata. Whilst the account holder can see who the tagger was, the rest of Flickr cannot. Tagging here is a great example of altruistic behaviour as the tagger is neither the image creator or owner.

6. Image content tagging (“here’s something interesting”)

Flickr also allows the notation of an image with the ‘add note’ function. We’ve noticed that some users are helpfully identifying particular buildings, landmarks, signage, flags and other important elements within an image with these tools. This creates a certain kind of additional metadata that isn’t about the object/image as a whole, but about a certain subset of the content.

7. Content commenting (“let me tell you more about this”)

Here’s where the value of the Commons is easiest to explain to other cultural sector professionals. This is old-fashioned community engagement and we’ve been really lucky to have engaged a number of prolific and dedicated members of the Flickr community who have taken up the challenge of identifying the exact dates, locations and other unknown details about the images we’ve uploaded.

Whilst some of the information we are learning about the images this way could probably have been discovered by the Museum itself, that the public has been able to do this for us and often within hours of new images going up on to the site speaks volumes.

This is also very much about empowering and acknowledging the importance of ‘amateur’ knowledge, which in the networked environment can often outpace, and sometimes outperform, isolated ‘professional’ knowledge.

8. Content embedding (“I’ve stuck this on my site/blog/profile”)
9. Content remixing and connecting (“here’s my images that fit with yours”)

Although harder to track, the other obvious purpose of the Commons is to encourage re-use. Re-use of heritage materials radically asserts their relevance in contemporary society and is an increasingly necessary bridge between the world of ‘museums as holders of old stuff’ and the world of ‘museums as places for inspiration (and connection)’.

All of this is ‘user generated context’ (cf. Haque) as much as it is ‘user generated content’. Context is increasingly what matters in a world overloaded with content, and museums through the exhibition medium should be specialists in understanding the importance of ‘context’.

And of course, our Tyrrell Today group has already gathered 123 images that are contemporary location photography matching the historic photography of the Tyrrells. This shows a huge amount of commitment from others in the Flickr community – to go out and purposely reshoot a Tyrrell from today’s perspective and we’re thrilled to have generated this much interest. We hope we can reciprocate.

Here’s an example.

(contemporary image by lifeasdaddy)

Some basic quantitative stats at 12 weeks

So with all that in mind, here’s some raw figures to consider.

How many?

600 photos uploaded (at 12 weeks)
103,000 views of photos

How are they being found?

69% via Flickr
2% via external search
6% via other websites (blogs etc)
21% direct to URL

Most popular:

Woman inside a settler’s hut (2nd most favourites) – 1735
Wool sorting room, Clifton Station – 1334
Cutting Out – 1011
Bondi Bay, Sydney (3rd most favourites) – 967
Circular Quay 1892 – 945

Perhaps not surprisingly for a global audience the top three images are those without geographic specificity and thus more general global appeal.

Most favourited:

Kookaburras – 29
Woman inside a settler’s hut – 19
Bondi Bay, Sydney – 15
Frank Senior, sculler – 13
The start of girls’ snowshoe race, Kiandra – 11

How many tags?

2433 tags (excluding machine tags)
Average tags per image – 4.055, median 2, standard deviation 4.93 (a fair number of objects have no tags, mostly the newest)

Most tagged:

George St, near Hunter St – 26
A farm homestead – 24
Choir, St Andrew’s Cathedral, looking east – 23
Sydney from Shell Cove, North Shore – 22
Woman inside a settler’s hut – 21

Some answers to some other frequently asked questions

1. What has been the impact on image sales?

It is early days and too early to tell whether or not we’ve ‘lost’ sales as a result of putting these images in Flickr. Interestingly we are getting a lot more online enquiries about purchasing these images and the offline (telephone, fax, etc) haven’t noticeably declined. It is too early to tell but I think once the other benefits of being in the Commons are brought into the equation we will have massively gained.

2. What happens when other institutions add their images? Do your images get ‘lost’ in the flood of new content?

Actually we’ve found that in this situation more is more. When new institutions add their images we see new peaks appear in our stats. This is because with each new addition comes a slew of blog posts across the blogosphere. The addition of the George Eastman House recently and the Bibliotheque de Toulouse both generated new types of media coverage of the Commons as a whole.

Also as the Commons evolves new features are added by the Flickr team so with the George Eastman House came cross-Commons ‘search‘ which will become even more useful as more complimentary collections are added – which in the case of the Powerhouse probably means more Australian collections.

3. What is your favourite story about the power of the Commons?

See my earlier post on the ‘discovery’ of the Mosman Falls.

4. Aren’t you worried about releasing these images as de facto ‘public domain’? Don’t you want attribution and credit for collecting, preserving and making these available?

We’ve noticed that our images are now spreading to the Wikimedia Commons, and are also being used in blog posts and various websites. And, although we haven’t specifically encouraged remixing – primarily because of the nature of the content of most of the images – there have been some Flickr users who have notified us of the intent to create screenprints and other derivatives of some images.

Now, because these images have been identified as ‘no known copyright’ there is no legal need to attribute the source of these images but every single re-use or embed of our images to date has featured an attribution. This is another testament to the nature of the Flickr community. Now that some of these images are also in the Wikimedia Commons it will be interesting to see whether the same courtesy attribution occurs.

5. I work in a museum/library/archive and we already have a Flickr account. As a matter of fact, we’ve had one for ages. Why is the Commons so different?

The two obvious differences are the banding together of collections under the promotional umbrella of ‘The Commons’; and the application of ‘no known Copyright’ to the images. The increasing prominence of the Commons within the Flickr ecosystem brings Commons images to many more people than a regular Flickr account. Together this creates an interesting effect – comparatively more interest in the images and more engagement around them. I wonder whether this is the effect of providing a clearing in the surrounding data smog where the intention of putting up historical images is very clear and contextualised (rather than obscured)?

6. What is the big deal about ‘no known Copyright’?

I guess the answer is both philosophical and practical. Philosophically it makes sense for publicly-owned heritage images to be made available to the public in a digital form to reuse and repurpose except where there are cultural sensitivities involved. This may not apply to institutions that aren’t publicly funded of course.

On a practical level it makes sense because asserting Copyright (or even Creative Commons) over something that clearly wasn’t made by you is full of legal complexities. Not only that, it complicates matters for learners of all ages who legitimately want to see and use these images – if only they knew they existed.

7. What are you doing with all the tags and comments?

Tags are easy and we’re treating them just like our other community generated metadata. Now we’ve passed the 3 month mark we’ve pulled all the tags to date back into our own collection database online where they will soon appear alongside the tags that have been on our own site.

Comments are a little more tricky and we’re working out ways that we can dedicate resources to going through these and updating the collection records properly. There are several factors that make this less than trivial – paradoxically many of the images with the most ‘documentation’-style comments are also the ones that have not been fully catalogued by our own curatorial staff. I expect that we will have resolved a proper process for the ingestion (and crediting) of information supplied via Flickr comments in the next six months.

8. How do you manage the community that is forming around your content on Flickr? What is the time commitment?

As I mentioned right at the top of this report we are still coming to terms with this. Our Image Services Manager, Paula Bray, does the bulk of the responding, commenting, favouriting and interacting. She is an avid photographer too and had her own Flickr account prior to joining the Museum and well before this project. She spends at least an hour a day in Flickr – yes, even weekends – and that’s not counting the time she spends selecting and preparing the content for bulk upload.

I drop in and out of our account to check what is going on each day also spending about 20-30 minutes a day making sure things are as they should be.

This need for ‘continuous participation’ is a challenge but it is reaping enormous rewards. However within an institution of our size and structure both Paula and I are spending considerable time ensuring we have a strong case for the resourcing of this ongoing participation which is part of the reason why we’re testing different metrics and documenting outcomes as we go.

9. How do you upload the images to Flickr? (and pull down those tags and comments)

We use the very well documented Flickr API to both upload and download. It took about 5 programming hours at most to build our uploader and also a downloader in PHP. After the images are uploaded from our collection database we have to go in and add them to the correct groups, geotag what we can, and then change their permissions so everyone can see them. Easy.

Need to know more? I will continue to post reports periodically. Courtney Johnston at the National Library of New Zealand (kia ora!) has posted a similar report on what they’ve learnt from the first year of having a ‘standard’ Flickr account. And, Bridget McKenzie in the UK has produced a good discussion paper arguing the pros and cons of having a Flickr presence for your institution.

Geotagging & mapping Imaging Social media

The Commons on Flickr: finding the Mosman Bay Falls

Whilst we are collating the data to report on the Museum’s first three months in the Commons on Flickr, I’ll share one of the best stories to come from the project for us so far – the story of finding the Mosman Bay Falls.

Amongst our photographs we found two images simply titled ‘Mosman Bay Falls’. Here’s one of them

Imaging Interactive Media Mobile MW2007

Mobile augmented animals – Wellington Zoo

One of the really wild things at Museums and the Web 2007 was a demonstration booth from the National Science Museum, Japan. At the booth were a series of paper pop up dinosaurs. By themselves the dinosaur popups were impressive but once a consumer grade webcam was pointed at the paper cutouts they came to life as proper 3d models on screen.

The technology was written up in their paper over at Archimuse.

Imaging Web 2.0

Brooklyn joins the Commons, we hit the 500 mark

The Brooklyn Museum have just joined the Commons on Flickr and some of the material they’ve released is spectacular. Amongst the highlights are some amazing lantern slides of Egypt as well as colourised photographs from the Paris Exposition in 1900. Some of the colourised images are quite surreal.

Brookyln have also released some of them at 3000 pixel and higher resolutions – asking re-users of these images to contact them to tell them whether this extra high resolution is useful. (I immediately thought that it might be fun to Photoshop in some Indiana Jones images into some of the Egypt images).

Flickr is already flagging that there will be many more contributors to the Commons coming very soon and that there will be some new features – an internal Commons search – as well as greater promotion of the Commons across Flickr. The addition of Brooklyn also seems to have solved the problem of the Commons needing a separate account – Brooklyn have sensibly merged their Commons images into their already very successful Flickr presence.

Back at the Powerhouse we’ve just uploaded our 500th image. This latest batch includes some lovely shots of the Sydney Observatory which is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. There are also more shots of old Sydney, and the Tyrrell Today group is now starting to fill up with complimentary contemporary shots of the Tyrrell locations takne by a diverse range of other Flickr users.

And two other things, if you search Flickr regularly then you will love CompFight. It is a really nifty quick search of Flickr with various options for Creative Commons images and (un)Safe Search that leverages the Flickr API.

If you want the more ‘wow’ but far less practical search of Flickr then this 3D globe-style search from Germany, Tag Galaxy, is pretty amusing – especially on a fast connection.

Conceptual Imaging Web 2.0

Conversation, the Commons, museum futures, and ‘architectures of participation’

This is a long and sprawling post and comes off the back of two weeks of presentations around the country and a lot of discussions about the ‘future of museums’. Perhaps find a comfortable chair and a hot beverage.

Checking my RSS feeds this morning I came across this piece from the Boston Globe which looks at the way the nature of what constitutes ‘history’ is being opened up with social web tools. It talks about the Commons on Flickr and the respective contributions of the Library of Congress and the Powerhouse Museum. Given the typical questions I’ve been asked in recent weeks about our own experience in the Commons, this section jumped out immediately.

Late last year, the Library of Congress posted several thousand of its photographs on Flickr and asked the public for help: What is this? Who is this? When was it taken? Curator Helena Zinkham, who oversaw the program, was stunned to discover how quickly the gaps were filled by amateur enthusiasts – and in some cases, people with firsthand recollections.

This was particularly the case where the images attracted the attention of a particular group of enthusiasts: military aviation buffs, for example, or aficionados of early baseball. One collection depicted early-20th-century boxers, many without vital information – perhaps just a last name, like “Wells.”

“By the time the conversation was done,” Zinkham says, “we were able to tell Matt Wells from Bombardier Billy Wells.” (emphasis mine)

Conversation – this is what social media is fundamentally about – and Zinkham’s use of the word says a lot about how the Library of Congress has approached the whole Commons project. As we know (from meat/meetspace) conversations are unpredictable and whilst they can be steered they can rarely be controlled. For this reason we’ve traditionally been unable to ‘let go’ in our marketing campaigns and our gallery and online experiences. Conversations are hard work too, and require ongoing work to maintain.

Thinking about the Museum Futures summit last week in Canberra (organised by Museums Australia) I’ve come to the conclusion that museums must “assert relevance, don’t assume relevance”. As others at the summit have noted, there still seems to be an assumption within the sector that museums are, by their very presence, relevant. This is not the case.

Alternatives are everywhere. ‘Experience venues’ are less the preserve of museums than every before. Take a look at the cinema industry and you quickly realise how the declining cost of home cinema equipment combined with DVDs and the internet have, in a very short space of time, greatly reduced the appeal of the ‘cinema experience’. There is now very little reason to visit a cinema to actually ‘see’ a film – that act can be performed anywhere – and the connection between the ‘seeing’ of the film and physical space of the cinema has been well and truly severed. Of course there are still some who enjoy the cinema experience, but the ‘need’ to attend to see a film is no longer.

If we think that ‘information’, ‘fact’ and ‘knowledge’ are our domain then again the alternatives are everywhere. The internet as an information space is dominant, faster and easier to access.

Fortunately we aren’t alone in facing this disruption.

I was excited to hear Cathy Johnson, a reference librarian talking about the ‘Slam the Boards’ initiative that she has been eagerly taking part in. (Cathy was talking at the State Library of NSW last week at the Reference at Metcalfe conference that I also spoke at). Slam the Boards originated in the US as a way of reference librarians making their presence felt in the rather unruly world of internet Q&A boards.

It is a great example of ‘asserting relevance’. What Cathy and other reference librarians do is all head over to Q&A boards like Yahoo Answers, WikiAnswers and the like and start answering questions. It sound simple but as even some in the audience felt, reference librarians find it incredibly challenging – even though they do the same every day in face to face situations in libraries. In answering questions professionally and tagging their posts and also identifying their avatars as ‘librarians’ Cathy argued that not only are librairans engaging audiences that have either forsaken libraries or are just unaware of their services; their answers act as promotion – not just of themselves and their library, but also of the idea of libraries as ‘trusted navigators of information’.

Actually all media industries face this question of ‘relevance’ in the face of alternatives. And, as ‘Future of media’ consultant Ross Dawson mused last week after attending a Powerhouse Future Directions Forum, museums are essentially media.

Come this morning and digital radio blogger, Tony Walker over at the ABC linked over to a fascinating post at Reportr about the changing motivations behind the newspaper world’s (slow) embrace of social media.

The Reportr article by Alfred Hermida is a fantastic read, as is the longer form report (by Hermida and Neil Thurman) it references midway through. As an investigation of how British newspapers have adapted to the changing media landscape – a result of the democratising of media production equipment and publishing technologies – it is very illuminating. We have seen similar adaptations attempted by Fairfax and News Limited.

Most of all Hermida’s research mirrors the attitudes and reactions of the museum world to social media, user-generated content, and the new demands of “asserting relevance” and engagement. From his earlier work –

While news organisations were providing more opportunities for participation, we also found evidence that they were retaining a traditional gate-keeping role. Moderation and or registration remained the norm as editors’ concerns over reputation, trust, and legal liabilities persisted.

This said, we did record a greater openness among editors. One described user media as a “phenomenon you can’t ignore”, another said they “firmly believed in the great conversation”, and one editor explained he was “very interested in unlocking” information from his “very knowledgeable” readers.

Sound familiar?

Hermida’s later research is showing that in light of low particpation rates (when compared to overall site visitation), and a lack of tangible ‘ROI’ and metrics, and ongoing concerns over ‘moderation’, there is still little in the way of more open forms of collaboration between audience and newspaper – potentially the most transformative.

Although there has been a continual increase in opportunities for readers to contribute over the three years of our work in this area, textual contributions are, in the main, still limited to short ‘comments’ on subjects or stories determined by professional editors. There is little in the way of longer-form contributions or opportunities for readers to set the agenda. We could suggest then that the media is creating an architecture of publication for material from the audience, rather than an architecture of participation.

Where opportunities for readers to set the agenda do exist (for example in readers’ blogs; or at message boards) they often seem to be part of what some have described as a “closed-off annex where readers can talk and discuss, as long as the media companies don’t have to be involved”.

Attempts to create genuinely open spaces where readers can set the agenda are few and far between. The Times’ ‘Your World’ travel site is one, but after initial external investment to get it running (it was sponsored by BMW) the site has atrophied without ongoing support and management. The most recent posts are 4 months old.

Will museums reach a similar point in their engagement with social media and pull back? At this stage I think there is a 50/50 chance. The gains that have been made with social media in terms of audience engagement and the transformation of the very idea of a ‘museum’ lie in the ability of the sector to overcome its inertia and begin to demonstrate the gains made so far and the opportunities that lie ahead.

Our relevance lies not in just creating an ‘architecture of publication’ but as Hermida and others say, designing ‘architectures of participation’. And this is not easy.

Coming back to where I started this post, George Oates from Flickr (and the architect of the Commons project), has written a nice piece over at A List Apart called “From Little Things”. The article is a nice introduction to the basics of designing for community interaction. Here she describes how Flickr operates as game –

If you imagine Flickr as something like Game for the Masses—a playing field without rules or a “way to play”—you can see how people can learn to engage with one another through conversations about their content.

This has certainly been our experience with the Commons. And the open nature of the game, and its evolving rules and social mores poses significant challenges for us. Museums are good at closed games – our galleries are full of them, our websites too. But we are only getting started at open ended evolving interactive experiences.

We better get a move on.

Geotagging & mapping Imaging

Commons on Flickr – one month later

Our experiment with the Commons on Flickr continues and barring a few hours delay we have managed to keep to our promise of 50 new images a week. We’re up to 400 images now with the most recent 50 going live this morning. 158 of these have been geotagged.

Some statistics:

– we’ve been added as contacts by 230 people
– our images have been viewed 39,685 times to yesterday.

Copyright/OCL Imaging

50 new images on the Commons on Flickr

As promised we’ve just added another 50 historical images from our Tyrrell Collection to the Commons on Flickr. In the first week we had nearly 20,000 views and an enormous amount of tagging and ‘favouriting’ activity combined with many congratulatory messages and support for the Museum’s release of these images into the Commons.

The new additions include historical shots of the Art Gallery, areas around Bulli, and this great photograph of the Great Hall at Sydney University.

Collection databases Imaging Web 2.0

Powerhouse Museum joins the Commons on Flickr – the what, why and how

Yes, you read that right. The Powerhouse Museum is the first museum to join the Commons on Flickr! And we’re excited because it went live today!

In the tradition of ‘slow food’ we have decided to do a slow release of content with an initial 200 historic images of Sydney and surrounds available through the Commons on Flickr and a promise of another 50 new fresh images each week! These initial images are drawn from the Tyrrell Collection. Representing some of the most significant examples of early Australian photography, the Tyrrell Collection is a series of glass plate negatives by Charles Kerry (1857-1928) and Henry King (1855-1923), two of Sydney’s principal photographic studios at the time.

(Sydney Cricket Ground)

We have also done something a little different to the Library of Congress – we have also started geo-tagging as many of the images we are uploading as possible. You can jump over to Flickr and see the images plotted on a map, then zoom in to browse and navigate. We are really excited by the possibilities that this opens up – suddenly ‘then and now’ photography becomes possible on a mass public scale. Because these images are being added to the Commons they are provided as having “no known Copyright” allowing maximum reuse.

We joined up with Flickr because we knew that the Tyrrell Collection were still largely unkown by the general public. This was despite fully catalogued sections (275 images) of the collection having been available on our own website for many years, as well as some of the semi-catalogued images (680 images) more recently in our collection database. We had also syndicated a feed of the fully catalogued Tyrrell images to the National Library of Australia’s Picture Australia. There are nearly 8000 Tyrrell images in total.

(Bondi Beach)

What Flickr offers the Powerhouse is an immediate large and broader audience for this content. And with this exposure we hope that we will have a strong driver to increase the cataloguing and digitisation of the remaining Tyrrell glass plate negatives as well as many more the previously hidden photographic collections of the Powerhouse.

There is a little bit of a back story here too. Joining the Commons happened rather by luck. Thanks to Maxine Sherrin and John Alsopp at Web Directions, George Oates from Flickr and I were speaking at the same event (Web Directions South) last year and were introduced. George visited the Museum during her time in Sydney and met the Image Services, Web Services, and Photography teams and we resolved to do something together. At that stage, the Commons was not public knowledge, and after it launched, George, being an ex-pat Australian, and I planned to get the Powerhouse Museum involved as soon as possible. Thanks to the swift work of Paula Bray and Luke Dearnley at the Powerhouse, as well as the support of internal management, the Museum has been able to seize this fantastic opportunity and react quickly.

George has blogged about the Powerhouse in the Commons over at the Flickr blog, and Paula will be blogging it over at Photo of the Day in a couple of hours.