Flickr Commons: It’s Complicated

I’ve already reported on many of the really cool things that can happen when participating in a venture like this one. We continue to get feedback on all kinds of usage and it’s been great to see people discovering these images and working with them in different ways.


World’s Columbian Exposition: Ferris Wheel, Chicago, United States, 1893. View of Ferris Wheel, [which dwarfs surrounding buildings,] Sept.; Starks W. Lewis, Amateur, Brooklyn, N.Y. Brooklyn Museum Archives, Goodyear Archival Collection (S03_06_01_016 image 2194).

One day, we came in to a fantastic surprise: Brian Karpuck re-used materials on his blog to create a walking tour of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. This is exactly what we were hoping for—mash-ups that would highlight the materials at hand and show them off in creative ways. Check out his posts and the panorama he created (thanks, Brian!):

Touring the Chicago World’s Fair: The Court of Honor in Pictures
More Pictures From the White City
The Original Ferris Wheel in Pictures
Chicago’s World’s Fair: The Remains of the Day

When people ask me how things are going for us with The Commons, I immediately think of friends on Facebook who’ve listed their relationship status as “it’s complicated.” Even with really, really great stuff going on like Brian’s effort to further define our Chicago resources, we’ve had confusion and frustration of our own making. As it turns out, the rights statement we were using on The Commons wasn’t clear enough. Our institutional policy is to release as much material possible, but we do reserve the rights for commercial use because the money that is made from those uses helps us take care of the collections we own. We realized that our own statement on Flickr was generating confusion because it didn’t state these expectations one way or another.

Like everything we jump into, we change and adjust as needed. In this instance, we’ve clarified our rights statement and wait to see if this change eliminates confusion. In the meantime, we are holding off uploading anything else until we can see if this resolves some of the issues we’ve been facing. We are hopeful these changes will help and the 2000+ images I’ve got cloaked on our Flickr feed can be released soon.

There have been other complications. We started to see our images in The Commons migrating to Wikimedia Commons. Check out discussions here and here. Initially a template was created that would mirror the rights statements, but that template is now slated for deletion—take a look at this discussion. We ended up resolving the issue by working with an editor at Wikimedia directly and after this help, good news, all of the Brooklyn Museum Commons images that were uploaded to Wikimedia link back to our now-clarified rights statement (example) which puts us more at ease. Working with the wiki editors has been a really positive experience and it leaves me thinking about ways we can do a better job of working with this community, so stay tuned!

We’ve had some other Commons-related issues going on as well (all of our own making, which easily fall under the “be careful what you wish for” category), but this is already a long post, so e-mail me if you want more info on those.