The British Library has released a million images into the public domain – and it needs your help

December 14 , 2013 by: Daniela Bowker News

The British Library is home to over 150 million published items; a copy of every publication—whether a book, newspaper, magazine or periodical—made each year in the UK and Ireland is archived there. In partnership with Microsoft the BL digitised tens of thousands of out-of-copyright publications from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. As part of this process they acquired millions of images from these pages and they’ve now released them into the public domain on the Flickr Commons.

The collection includes illustrations, satirical comics, geological diagrams, maps, illuminated letters, and maybe a few photos. Now that they have been released into the public domain they are free for anyone to use, remix, and repurpose as they wish. But the BL is also asking for help to find innovative ways to allow people to navigate and search these images; while the library knows the book, volume, and page from which each image was drawn, it knows nothing about them indivdually. It wants to crowdsource descriptions of what each image portrays to make the collection a lot more useful, as well as develop an efficient tagging and metadata system.

Image taken from page 582 of 'The United States of America. A study of the American Commonwealth, its natural resources, people, industries, manufactures, commerce, and its work in literature, science, education and self-government. [By various authors.]

Image taken from page 582 of ‘The United States of America. A study of the American Commonwealth, its natural resources, people, industries, manufactures, commerce, and its work in literature, science, education and self-government. [By various authors.] Edited by N. S. Shaler … With many illustrations’ by SHALER, Nathaniel Southgate.

You can take a look at the images over on the British Library’s Flickr stream and if you have any bright ideas to help them with the project, they’d be interested to hear from you, too.

Image taken from page 298 of 'On English Lagoons. Being an account of the voyage of two amateur wherrymen on the Norfolk and Suffolk rivers and broads ... With an appendix, the log of the wherry “Maid of the Mist” ... Illustrated, etc'

Image taken from page 298 of ‘On English Lagoons. Being an account of the voyage of two amateur wherrymen on the Norfolk and Suffolk rivers and broads … With an appendix, the log of the wherry “Maid of the Mist” … Illustrated, etc’ by P.H. Emerson

(Headsup to Ars Technica)

About Daniela

This post was written by Daniela Bowker, who has written 1382 articles for Photocritic

Daniela has written three books on photography, contributed to several others, and acted as the editorial consultant on many more.

Her newest book, Social Photography, is currently available as a digital download as well as in bookshops in the UK and US.

You might also want to check out her exploration of other-worldly photographic creations, Surreal Photography: Creating the Impossible, and Photo School Fundamentals, for which she contributed the section on composition.

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