Smithsonian Institution Shares Photographs on The Commons on Flickr

June 18, 2008
News Release

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The Smithsonian has collaborated with Flickr—a leading photo-sharing community—Monday, June 16, by adding more than 800 images to The Commons on Flickr from seven of its museums, research centers and archives. The images in this initial Smithsonian posting came from the collections of the National Museum of the American Indian, National Postal Museum, Anacostia Community Museum, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, and Smithsonian Institution Libraries. Images can be found at

The photographs include a small but broad selection of the 13 million images in the Smithsonian collections—only a fraction of which have been digitized. The Smithsonian images now on Flickr are organized into six sets: Smithsonian’s First Photographer, American Celebrations, Portraits of Artists, Portraits of Scientists and Inventors, Smithsonian Folklife Festival, and People and the Post. These sets contain photographs collected from outside sources, as well as those taken by Smithsonian staff, and represent a broad range of subjects and themes in art, history, culture and science. Links are provided from each photograph to the Smithsonian Web sites that contain additional information about the images and the collections they represent.

“Our goals in participating in The Commons on Flickr are to expose new, larger, broader and younger audiences to our photographic collections and help them discover more of the Smithsonian educational resources,” said Richard Kurin, Acting Under Secretary for History, Art and Culture. “We also hope to learn how Web site visitors use our digital collections so that we can better serve the public.”

Highlights of Smithsonian images include a cyanotype of the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, N.Y., in 1910; a 19th-century portrait of Albert Einstein and other scientists; and images from the Silk Road program at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in 2002. In addition, there are 250 images from Thomas Smillie (1843-1917), the Smithsonian’s first photographer, who documented all important events and research trips for the Smithsonian; American celebrations, such as personal family celebrations, world expositions and national powwows, the celebrations of Native American dance and song; and a selection of images from the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, an annual event on the National Mall.

“Furthering Flickr’s vision to be the ‘eyes for the world,’ Flickr is partnering with public institutions to enable members to enrich and add a layer of insight and knowledge to historic and cultural photos,” said George Oates, program manager for The Commons on Flickr. “We are thrilled to be working with the Smithsonian, which houses some of the most interesting and unique images of American history and culture.”

During the next several months, the Smithsonian will provide more than 1,200 digital photographic images to Flickr. The Smithsonian’s participation follows the successful experience of the Library of Congress posting two of its photographic collections to The Commons on Flickr.

About The Commons on Flickr
In January 2008, Flickr began working with the Library of Congress, the first collaboration with a public institution to facilitate giving people a voice in describing the content of a publicly held photography collection. The key goals of The Commons on Flickr ( are to give the public a taste of the hidden treasures in the world’s public photography archives and to show how their input and knowledge can help make these collections even richer.

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