Children at runic inscription from 1678, Risinge, Östergötland, Sweden
Children at runic inscription from 1678, Risinge, Östergötland, Sweden, 1893. Photo: Erik Brate

On March 17th, the Irish celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day. At the Swedish National Heritage Board we celebrate 1 year of successful and rewarding presence as the first Scandinavian agency or institution on Flickr Commons, an international  photo sharing site where cultural heritage institutions (currently 33) from all over the world show copyright free photographs from their collections.

A year ago, the Flickr Commons team of the Board (Lars Lundqvist, Sophie Jonasson, Johan Carlström and Anna Boman) uploaded some 100 images from Sweden and Europe in the late 1800s, taken by the physician and amataur photographer Carl Curman. The images went online and the response was immediate. Over 80 000 views were registered after the first week. Numerous newspapers and blogs as well as the Swedish Radio caught the news – efficiently spread through social media except from a blog post and an article published on the Board’s own website.

View from Katarina Lift, Stockholm, Sweden
Photo: Carl Curman, 1890

More collections and sets
The uploading went on and the initial collection ”Carl Curman” was on September 1st followed by a collection ”Old churches and Ancient monuments”. In February this year the Set ”Autochromes of Villa Bonnier” was launched. Today – a year after the release – our photos on Flickr Commons have been viewed more than 482 600 times.

So far, 467 of the photos have been commented on by the Flickr community members and about the same amount has been marked as favorites in various degrees. The photos have been tagged by the members with nearly 1000 different tags and shown in different groups and galleries on Flickr.

User generated content = value!

Especially rewarding has been the interaction with the Flickr community. One of the reasons the Board wanted to try a Web 2.0 photo service was to allow the general public to contribute their knowledge and in that way improve our own data on the photos. It all fell out extremely well – the Flickr community has given us new and valuable information, helped us locate unidentified photos, corrected errors in our data, added tags to increase the searchability, and not the least - given us a lot of positive input on our photographs in terms of pure estimation :-)

Unidentified photos are unidentified no more

Tonsåsen Sanatorium, Valdres, Norway
Tonsaasen Sanatorium, c. 1890. Photo: Carl Curman

Two German photos by Carl Curman were identified by the Flickr community after an appeal to help us locate them was published on the German Flickr Blog and also found its way to German Wikipedia. A couple of photos from Norway were located with the help of Norwegian ”ABC Nyheter” and its readers after a journalist caught on Twitter that we needed help to identify and wrote a series of articles about it.

Another reason the Board joined Flickr Commons was to make images from its holdings available to a wider and mostly new audience. Today more than 1 450 Flickr members have added the Board as their contact on Flickr. New users have also been guided to the Board’s own photo database online Kulturmiljöbild since every photo the Board show on Flickr is linked directly to the photo page in the database.

Common Ground

On October 3d the Board participated in the global event of  ”Common Ground”  where several of the institutions from the Commons in their home towns presented a slide show with photos from the Commons voted by the Flickr members. About 250 interested visitors joined the Flickr Commons team of the Board to watch the slide show and chat with us in St. Karin’s medieval church ruin in Visby.

Järsnäs Church, Småland, Sweden
Järsnäs Church, Småland, Sweden, 1920s. Photo: Unknown

Ever since the beginning there has been a large interest in media, blogs and the surrounding world of what happens when an agency like ours uses a social web service as Flickr Commons. We’re pleased to tell that our experience is entirely positive and that no clouds have darkened the sky (except perhaps a few spam links in comments, immediately erased by Flickr staff when reported).

Finally, we’re happy to continue uploading copyright free photographs from our collections. Some pics from Old Europe will soon be presented… Welcome to view and share them with us on Flickr Commons!

>> Anna Boman is a member of the Flickr team at the Swedish National Heritage Board