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Picture This: Celebrating Eleven Years in the Flickr Commons
Celebrating Eleven Years in the Flickr Commons By Barbara Orbach Natanson
Eleven years ago today we posted our first sets of photos in the Flickr Commons, which was created to share treasures from the world's public archives. Thousands of pictures, views, and comments later, we're celebrating with a new album of pictures with an "eleven-ish" connection and an invitation to participate in a tagging activity in Flickr.
Sharing pictures from our collections in Flickr has spurred lively conversations about images and the people, places, and experiences they document. Prints & Photographs Division staff have taken turns week by week reading comments from Flickr members, responding to questions, and adding new information to our image descriptions based on comments offered. Today, we decided to turn the tables and have our staff comment on some of the photos featured in our eleventh anniversary album.
Perhaps primed by the Library of Congress's ongoing Baseball Americana exhibit, two staff members mused about this group portrait:
The eleven of New England. Print published by Bufford, copyrighted 1851, http://bit.ly/2TV5zzZ
Kit (Digital Library Specialist): Hallo – playing cricket in New England in 1850! With its enormous popularity in other areas of the world with significant historical connections to England, I've wondered why this other ball & bat game never caught on in the U.S., and instead that baseball became the "National Pastime." How interesting to see this 1851 print commemorating a cricket event in 1850, not long before the first U.S. "Laws of Base Ball" was codified at the first Base Ball convention in New York City in 1857 (see "Baseball's Magna Carta" in the Baseball Americana exhibit.)
Hanna (Reference Librarian): I was drawn immediately to the attire and body language of the man listed as an "Umpire". He seems to have a jovial friendship with the player next to him, plus he's dressed in tails and top hat! It makes me wonder when the trend of dressing in your finest duds went out of style for portraits/photographs (though you still see umps today wearing ties during a match).
Another group portrait also sparked ideas:
Three old friends. The President, Bishop Vincent and Jacob Riis taken at Chautauqua NY, August 11th 1905. Photo by Underwood and Underwood, 1905. http://bit.ly/2RQtfIt
Hanna: This photograph shows the power of handwritten notes and captions on our images. If this had just listed the names of the gentlemen, you would have missed the sentiment of friendship. Here, three simple words can spark a new avenue of research.
Kit: Having learned of the unique friendship between Jacob Riis and Theodore Roosevelt from the Library of Congress Exhibit Jacob Riis – Revealing "How The Other Half Lives", it is wonderful to see this image of the men together in their later years. I wish that a photograph also existed of them from one of their night time forays into the slums of New York when then-Police Commissioner Roosevelt asked Riis to serve as a guide to the problems that existed for which Riis promoted changes and reforms – explorations that developed Roosevelt as an ally for Riis' efforts, as well as sparking a life-long friendship.
Pictures of people offer so many facets to explore visually and historically, and this one was no exception.
Four unidentified women at equal rights conference at Woman's Party, 11/11/22. Photo by National Photo Company, 1922, Nov. 11. http://bit.ly/2FsvaNC
As with many of our Flickr contributors, Ryan (Reference Librarian) offered us a fact that will enhance retrieval once we add it to the description: Second from left is Alva E. Belmont. See: http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/92510859/
Kit noticed attire: Cause and purpose (conferencing on Equal Rights for women) need not ignore style. If you have a fondness for hats – this photo is for you! I'm always amazed by images from this time period – in urban areas particularly, though not exclusively – including crowds on a street – to see most everyone in a hat. Where did everyone keep all of these hats in their homes? These women, clearly of some means, display a particularly fine array of completely different and wonderful hat designs. I also appreciate the courtesy of the boot-scrapes at the bottom of the steps…
Greg (Cataloger) reflected on connections to his own family history and hopes for the future: These women are inspiring — their work isn't done. My mother was born without the right to vote. She's 98. This is living memory, people!
Pictures of places can also spur reflections about the past:
Kitchen and washroom of two room mountain shack, Route U.S. 11, a few miles east of Marshall, North Carolina. Photo by Carl Mydans, 1936 March. http://bit.ly/2T5Feza
Mary (Cataloger): Photos of living spaces have always intrigued me. When I first saw this picture I asked myself: how did the residents manage to cook and wash in such a limited space? I look closer and see the small bucket holding what looks like a washboard and learn where they washed their clothes and, maybe, their dishes. I also see makeshift shelving used for storage of supplies and canned goods. I think the large table must have provided space for both meal prep and dining. Light coming in through gaps in the doorway tells me it must have been cold during the winter months. This photo speaks a lot about the fortitude and resourcefulness of the people who lived here.
Kit also did some close looking: It's impossible not to want to read the newspapers used to cover the walls of this simple though cared for living space – and with the high resolution image available – I've found a sheet on the left with the heading "ASHEVILLE CITIZEN-TIMES", published in Asheveille, NC, about 20 miles from Marshall, NC where the photo was taken. It feels purposeful that on the wall over the table is a full page Ad for Crisco with enticing images of different pies!
——– Places–and features of places–have potential connections to our own pasts, too:
Swampscott – Essex County, Mass.- 11 miles from Boston. Print published by Bufford, copyrighted 1871. http://bit.ly/2CtK1Dt
This image of Swampscott, Massachusetts reminds me of the similar rocky shores of the neighboring town of Lynn where my father was born. His family used to gather periwinkle snails from the rocks. The coast may have reminded his mother of her hometown on the Adriatic Sea in Italy.
And sometimes a photo just demands a quip.
Bodybuilder Gene Jantzen with wife Pat, and eleven-month-old son Kent. Photo by Stanley Kubrick, 1947 June 2. http://bit.ly/2Rt9nf8
Ryan asks: Yeah, but what can he bench?
Do you have a reaction to these selections from our 11th anniversary album? Please feel free to share a comment. And please continue to celebrate with us by having a look at the full contents of the album. Flickr members can offer comments in Flickr and are also invited to highlight their favorite pictures from any of the more than one hundred institutions that participate in the Flickr Commons by adding the tag, Commons11.
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