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The Digital Wunderkammer: Flickr as a Platform for Amateur Cultural and Heritage Content

From: Library Trends
Volume 59, Number 4, Spring 2011
pp. 686-706 | 10.1353/lib.2011.0022



Many memory institutions are now digitizing their holdings to provide online access. Although recent developments in technology have allowed users to create high quality digital resources outside institutional boundaries, little consideration has been given to the potential contribution that the general public can make to digitizing cultural heritage. This article seeks to scope the growing trend of the creation of digital images of cultural and heritage materials beyond library, art gallery, or museum walls, particularly focusing on the use of the image-hosting site Flickr (www.flickr.com) as a forum for hosting, discussing, and collecting vintage ephemera. This article discusses how Flickr is currently being used and provides empirical data that demonstrates that the most successful examples of this approach can teach best practice to traditional memory institutions in how to make their collections useful, interesting, and used by online communities. The use of a common, centralized access point to image-based heritage allows a central point for discussing and accessing collections. Furthermore, the adoption of Flickr by libraries and archives can extend the use of collections and the interaction that this affords both the institution and the individual.