The Internet Archive is using public domain digitization to offer an entryway into its over 500 years of historical texts already online. Last week the archive, which has around 600 million pages on its library platform, announced that it was joining Flickr Commons with plans to put 14 million images online. More than 2.6 million of them are already accessible.
As Kay Kremerskothen put it on the Flickr blog:
What would it look like if those 600 million pages could be ‘read’ completely differently? What if every illustration, drawing, chart, map, or photograph became an entry point, allowing one to navigate the world’s books not as paragraphs of text, but as a visual tapestry of our lives? How would we learn and explore knowledge differently?
The Flickr Commons, and many other online archives, are already rich with public domain and creative commons images from all over, but the Internet Archive is consciously working to make sure the context for its images doesn’t get lost. Each one comes with its source information as well as the text that originally surrounded it. A search term doesn’t just pull up images of that word, but others related to it as well. Headed by collaborating scholar Kalev Leetaru, the project involves recovering images that were removed by an optical character recognition program in the process of digitizing texts. You can still access a link on each image’s page to view it in its original document.
Over at the BBC, they note that the “project has resulted in even more pictures of cats being put on to the internet.” But scrolling through, it was the old museum guides that caught my eye, from twisted skeletons in the Warren Anatomical Museum in Boston to a now sadly gone rat-infested house diorama in the American Museum of Natural History. Below are just a few selections from these old museum publications — guides to collections that are, like the Internet Archive images themselves, fleeting portals of history waiting for descent.
Find all of the Internet Archive Book Images on Flickr Commons.