Recognize this scene? It's the massive fire that tore through a section of downtown Lawrence on Monday. Without captions, though, such images are difficult to identify.
That's why the Library of Congress announced, recently, that it had uploaded more than 3,000 non-copyrighted photographs to the popular online photo-sharing service Flickr. What do these images have in common? The Library of Congress wants to know more about them. The following photo of striking workers, taken some time between 1910 and 1915 in Lowell, is a perfect example:
A January 16 post on the the Library of Congress blog announces that the Library of Congress photoset on Flickr was created in order to "enhance our metadata" -- i.e., improve the information attached to the photos, for the benefit of researchers and posterity.
"We want people to tag, comment and make notes on the images, just like any other Flickr photo, which will benefit not only the community but also the collections themselves," the blog post explains. "For instance, many photos are missing key caption information such as where the photo was taken and who is pictured."
The Library of Congress's experiment seems to be bearing fruit already. I noticed today that Flickr user BronzePolgara has identified the photo above, taken circa 1940-41, and titled "Factory buildings in Lowell, Mass.?." The building in question, according to BronzePolgara, is now part of Massachusetts Mills, a mixed-income housing development located in a historic mill complex in downtown Lowell. BP even uploaded a photo of the building as it appears today:
Want to lend a hand in this cutting-edge effort? I've posted a handful of LoC photos that were supposedly taken in the Boston area, or feature Boston personalities (baseball players, in most cases). Some of these images have rudimentary caption information; others have best guesses only, indicated by the use of [brackets]. If you've got useful information about one of these images, please post it to the comments section of this Brainiac entry; using my own best judgment, I'll post the info to Flickr. Or else you can visit Flickr's Library of Congress photoset and leave your comments there.
NOTE: To see the full-size version of a photo, click on it.
Readers, the following photo is perhaps my favorite. Who was Eva Morrison? What's going on here? I'd love to find out.
UPDATE: A reader ID'ed Morrison for me. Click here.
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Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.
Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.
Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.
Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.
Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."
Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.
Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.