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Crowdsourcing

britishlib

In news that is bound to please any academics using images, the British Library has just uploaded one million public domain images to flickr. As their blog states:

“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.”

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Beyond the fact that we can now use these images however we please, this is also an opportunity for them to crowdsource knowledge, with the launch of an application next year allowing users to comment on the images. This reminds me a little of the New York Public Library’s interactive reading of Candide, with users invited to comment on passages, creating essentially a collaborative digitised critical edition.

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In both of these examples a job is done away with, that of the cataloguer and the editor, jobs that normally take place in the shadows and are rarely commented upon outside of reviews in specialist publications. As someone who has taken on both of these roles in the last few years, I can only see this as a positive and necessary move. Bravo!

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