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Flickr Will Host Millions Of New Historical Images

12 Million New Copyright-Free Historical Images to be Uploaded

Anne Parsons
Flickr Will Host Millions Of New Historical Images

Kalev Leetaru, a fellow of George Washington University in Washington, DC is dedicated to making historical images more accessible. For years libraries have been digitising their books, and making them into PDFs or text searchable works. This has largely ignored the rich source of historical images contained in the books.

Leetaru 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.

"Most of the images that are in the books are not in any of the art galleries of the world - the original copies have long ago been lost."

Image from page 891 of "Our greater country; being a standard history of the United States from the discovery of the American continent to the present time .." (1901)

Leetaru has already begun uploading a reported 2.6 million pictures to Flickr under the section ‘Internet Archive Book Images”. All of these images are searchable thanks to tags that have been automatically added by software Leetaru designed to capture the original caption.

The pictures range from 1500 to 1922, when copyright restrictions come into effect.

Image from page 181 of "Dreer's garden book 1915" (1915)

Leetaru has received much praise for his work. Dr Alison Pearn, a senior archivist from the University of Cambridge told the BBC that, "finding images within texts and tagging large collections of images are notoriously difficult. This is a clever way of providing both quantity and searchability, and it's great that it is freely available for anyone to use.”

Leetaru wants his work to be far-reaching. "What I want to see is... Wikipedia have a national day of going through this to illustrate Wikipedia articles."

Image from page 388 of "Breeder and sportsman" (1882) 

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