I wasn’t sure what I was looking for last night but I ended up at the Saskatoon Public Library’s database of archival images. I checked out some old historic collections from Saskatoon’s past but I have to admit that it wasn’t the easiest to use, it was slow, you can’t save any images, and it is obsolete technology when you compare it to many of the collections in Flickr’s Commons.
For those of you who have been out of the loop for a while, The Commons are a series of institutions that upload photos that they own the copyright to or are in the public domain to Flickr where users can take, describe, and fill out the history regarding. Since the photos are in the public domain (or licensed with some restrictions under Creative Commons), they can be easily viewed (or used by the masses). Many of the participating organizations upload 50-200 photos at a time and then allow people to tag, leave comments, and fill out historical details on all of them.
As Flickr says, the goals are to:
- To increase access to publicly-held photography collections, and
- To provide a way for the general public to contribute information and knowledge. (Then watch what happens when they do!)
I am picking on the Saskatoon Public Library but the same could be said for the City of Saskatoon archives, University of Saskatchewan’s archives, the The StarPhoenix photo archives (they could also take down the paywall on their archives while they are at it), the Diefenbaker Centre photographic collection or even the Western Development Museum’s archives. They are all owners of vast amount of archival photos that would be best served being served up electronically, even if small increments.
I was noticing on the Saskatoon Public Library database that they own the copyright to quite a few images historical I was checking out. I am assuming that they took over the copyright when the original owner donated the originals to the archives but that can be released and licensed and released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License for non-profit or private use. There are some images that are still held by families or companies and of course those copyrights will need to be respected but for those images that are in the public domain, release them and make them easily available to the public. All of Saskatoon would benefit.