The Library of Congress is Using Flickr: Shouldn’t Teachers?

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by Jeffrey Ayer, WTWL Writer

In recent months, the Library of Congress has piloted a new photo series on the photo-intensive website, Flickr. If you’ve never been to Flickr, it’s essentially a website where photographers from around the world are uploading and sharing their photos, and commenting on the photographs other people post.

In this case, Flickr has teamed up with an unlikely photographer (or should I say archive of American historical photography), and the results are literally breathtaking. One example alone is Jack Delano’s “In the waiting room of Union Station”, taken in Chicago, Illinois. The photo features two officers who create shadows in spotlight-like beams of sunshine coming in from the gothic windows above.

And the list goes on. In all, as of May 2009, the Library of Congress has posted over 6,000 historical photos from its archives, including World War I panoramas, photos of President Abraham Lincoln, and the decades of the 1910s, 1930s, and 1940s.

How does this all fit teaching and learning, you ask? Think of the potential uses of this archive. Because Flickr includes a slideshow feature, you and your students could gaze at history through the lenses of long-ago photographers – and leave comments (thanks Web 2.0). A colleague of mine uses photography to inspire young creative writers, both to tell stories in prose and describe an image in poetry. The possibilities in art, photography, psychology, journalism, sociology, English, and history classes are just the beginning.

And if nothing else, it’s an easy-to-use site where students could be encouraged to use the old right brain and create using a digital camera. It’s also a site where some are using the space to store photographs for personal use (users can make photos private or public).

The site even encouraged me to get started and get more serious with my own freelance photography, so I’m excited about that alone.

To get started, simply go to Flickr, click on “Create Your Account” (easy to do if you already have a Yahoo e-mail account), and then click on “Sign Up.” Unlike Google accounts, this one asks for your full name, gender, birth date, and postal zip code, but if you’re using this for professional use, there’s nothing here that should scare you. In addition, like many Web 2.0 sites, everything is free (there is a megabyte limit to how many photos you can upload until you may want to consider “going pro”).

To get started, click here to access the Library of Congress’s photostream.

On a tech note, beware of the filters your school may have. Flickr can be accessed in some schools and school districts, and not in others. Having a conversation with your IT director or building principal would be worthwhile in a case like the one above. Remember: We are the leaders on a 21st Century pioneering venture. If the Library of Congress is on board, shouldn’t our schools be as well? Happy Flickring!

One Comment

  1. Interesting! I emailed this post to 14 staff members here at SCF. Several thanked me for the link. Thanks for bringing this info about the Flickr/ Library of Congress partnership. Very valuable for teachers.