The British Library has released over a million images onto Flickr Commons, free for any use. They’re hoping to crowdsource the image descriptions, making them easier to search, and are asking for help.
In a post titled A Million First Steps, project director Ben O’Steen announced:
We have released over a million images onto Flickr Commons for anyone to use, remix and repurpose. These images were taken from the pages of 17th, 18th and 19th century books digitised by Microsoft who then generously gifted the scanned images to us, allowing us to release them back into the Public Domain. The images themselves cover a startling mix of subjects: There are maps, geological diagrams, beautiful illustrations, comical satire, illuminated and decorative letters, colourful illustrations, landscapes, wall-paintings and so much more that even we are not aware of.
Which brings me to the point of this release. We are looking for new, inventive ways to navigate, find and display these ‘unseen illustrations’. The images were plucked from the pages as part of the ‘Mechanical Curator’, a creation of the British Library Labs project. Each image is individually addressible, online, and Flickr provides an API to access it and the image’s associated description.
The full photosteam is here. This is an amazing resource for all sorts of art projects. There are vintage zoological woodcuts and illustrations from fairy tales and religious memento mori and loads and loads (indeed, more than a million) other interesting images. You can volunteer to help tag and describe them, or just raid the repository for your own use. Great stuff.