December 2013 | Nate Pedersen

British Library Releases 1,000,000+ Images into the Public Domain

iona bl.jpg

The British Library uploaded over 1m photos into the public domain last week via Flickr Commons.  The enormously diverse images were drawn from 17th, 18th, and 19th century books originally digitized by Microsoft.  Microsoft then, in turn, gifted the scanned images to the British Library who wanted to ensure the photos would be released into the public domain.

The images include "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."

In an effort to learn more about the images and promote their usage, the British Library plans to crowdsource inventive ways to "navigate, find, and display" the photos. Each image has been tagged with information about its provenance, however there is little to no interpretation of what the images mean.  The British Library hopes that users of the collection will help fill in the blanks.

norway church bl.jpgThe original blog post about the release stated, "We want to collaborate with researchers and anyone else with a good idea for how to markup, classify and explore this set with an aim to improve the data and to improve and add to the tagging. We are looking to crowdsource information about what is depicted in the images themselves, as well as using analytical methods to interpret them as a whole."

The British Library went on to say, "We are very interested to hear what ideas and projects people use these images for and we would ideally like to collaborate with those who have been inspired to explore them."

You can browse the collection on Flickr here and learn more about the effort from the BL's blog here.