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Celebrating 5 years of The Commons on Flickr

Of what value is a photograph if it's stored away, tucked deep in filing cabinets, and inaccessible to potential viewers? Not, much, says Flickr.

Greater accessibility was the driving factor behind The Commons on Flickr project, which last week celebrated its fifth anniversary. Launched on January 16, 2008 in partnership with The Library of Congress, Flickr sought to increase access to publicly held photography collections, providing a way for people to interact with the images, and potentially contributing information to the catalogs.

Dozens of institutions around the world have offered up their public collections so far, and thousands of Flickr community members have contributed to the conversation, adding nearly 2 million tags and more than 165,000 comments to the photos, offering detailed anecdotes and supplemental information to the collections.

Here are just a few of the most popular photos to appear in The Commons on Flickr, including images from the San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives, Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums, The U.S. National Archives, and The National Archives U.K.

McDonnell Douglas : F/A-18C : Hornet

Catalog #: 00042036
Manufacturer: McDonnell Douglas
Designation: F/A-18C
Official Nickname: Hornet
Notes: DIO
Repository: San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive
Photo by: Creighton Holt

Lovely PSA flight attendants

Flight attendants in the 1960s from PSA Airlines, an American regional airline headquartered at Dayton International Airport in Vandalia, Ohio, which is now part of US Airways.

PSA 06-01603
Photo by: San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives

John Currie and the RMS Mauretania

First Chief Engineer John Currie poses at the rudder of the RMS Mauretania at the Canada Dock in Liverpool, 1909. At the time, the Mauretania was the largest and fastest ship in the world.

Reference: TWAS: DS.WS/143/68
Photo by: Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums

The Big Three at Yalta

Winston Churchill, Theodore Roosevelt, and Joseph Stalin pose for a photo at the Yalta Conference in Crimea, February 1945 to discuss the organization post-war Europe.

Catalogue Reference: INF 14/447
Photo by: The National Archives UK

Richard M. Nixon and Elvis Presley at the White House

Richard M. Nixon and Elvis Presley at the White House on December 21, 1970.

From: Series: Master Print File, compiled 1969-1974 (Collection RN-WHPO)
Photo by: The U.S. National Archives

Tommy enjoys possession of newly captured Hun trench

British soldiers at the old German Front Line during World War I. In front of a mound and standing in a network of trenches are groups of soldiers, mostly smiling and laughing. They are all wearing large ponchos, and the ground is very muddy. One soldier is pointing to a sign which says the "old hun line."

"Tommy Atkins" was a fictional hero figure representing the average British soldier. The slang British term used here for German, "Hun," gained popular usage after Kaiser Wilhelm II urged his troops to "behave like Huns" to win the war.

[Original reads: "OFFICIAL PHOTOGRAPH OF THE SOMME ADVANCE - Tommy enjoys possession of newly captured Hun trench."]
Photo by: National Library of Scotland


A blind person is shown "seeing" the human body via the touching of a skeleton at Sunderland Museum.

From 1913, John Alfred Charlton Deas, a former curator at Sunderland Museum, organized several handling sessions for the blind, first offering an invitation to the children from the Sunderland Council Blind School to handle a few of the collections at Sunderland Museum.
Photo by: Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums

Hitchhiker with his dog 'Tripper'

Original caption: Hitchhiker with His Dog, "Tripper," on U.S. 66. U.S. 66 Crosses The Colorado River At Topock: 05/1972

U.S. National Archives' Local Identifier: NWDNS-412-DA-6626
Photo by: The U.S. National Archives

Letter carrier with child in mailbag

From the Smithsonian: "This city letter carrier posed for a humorous photograph with a young boy in his mailbag. After parcel post service was introduced in 1913, at least two children were sent by the service. With stamps attached to their clothing, the children rode with railway and city carriers to their destination. The Postmaster General quickly issued a regulation forbidding the sending of children in the mail after hearing of those examples."
Photo by: Smithsonian Institution

Reykjavik, 1900

Vesturgata, Reykjavik.

From the Icelandic and Faroese Photographs of Frederick W.W. Howell, collection, Cornell University Library, circa 1900.
Photo by: Cornell University Library


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