The Digital Wunderkammer: Flickr ...
Access Provided by University of Southampton at 09/18/11 10:21AM GMT
LIBRARY TRENDS, Vol. 59, No. 4, 2011 (���Involving Users in the Co-Construction of Digital Knowledge in Libraries, Archives, and Museums,��� edited by Paul F. Marty and Michelle M. Kazmer), pp. 686���706. �� 2011 The Board of Trustees, University of Illinois The Digital Wunderkammer: Flickr as a Platform for Amateur Cultural and Heritage Content Melissa Terras Abstract Many memory institutions are now digitizing their holdings to pro- vide 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 digitiz- ing 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 ap- proach 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 ac- cessing 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. Introduction Digitization, ���the conversion of an analog signal or code into a digital sig- nal or code��� (Lee, 2002, p. 3), is now commonplace in most memory in- stitutions, as digital representations of cultural and historical documents, artifacts, and images are created and delivered to users, generally online. The exponential growth in digitization projects toward the close of the
687 terras/the digital winderkammer twentieth century, along with the establishment of guides to good practice and technical guidelines, has meant that ���countless millions of pounds, dol- lars, francs and marks [have been] ploughed into digital projects that have involved the conversion of library, museum and archive collections��� (Lee, 2002, p. 160). Much of the early academic debates regarding the purpose, merit, and scope of digitization are now resolved as institutions create high quality resources for the general user and academic researcher alike (Deegan & Tanner, 2002 Hughes, 2004). As a result digitization per se is not an academic research issue, but part of the wider information context related to cultural and heritage institutions (Minerva, 2003, p. xxiii). One area seldom considered in academic literature is the creation of digital resources by amateurs. Recent developments in Web 2.0 tech- nologies (those that facilitate and encourage creativity, information shar- ing, and collaboration [O���Reilly, 2005]) means that museums, libraries, and archives are now reconsidering their relationship with users and the general public, both in the use of digital collections and how users can contribute to an increasingly rich digital resource environment. This ar- ticle assesses the scope of online resources created outside institutional boundaries by keen individuals who wish to participate in digitizing cul- tural heritage. In particular, it demonstrates that the image-hosting tool, Flickr, provides an easy and intuitive hosting platform for individuals to post, share, and discuss image-based historical material. As institutions be- come aware of Flickr as a hosting platform, many have begun cautiously to adopt an approach that allows for their closer integration with their potential audience and user community. I aim to provide an overview of the use of Flickr as a platform for the sharing of image-based cultural her- itage, and attempt to conceptualize the potential contribution that can be made by amateur digitization. Through integration with groups and individuals creating their own cultural and heritage content and using Flickr as a hosting platform, this article demonstrates that the uncharted territory of digital resources cre- ated outside traditional memory institution boundaries can provide a rich source of materials for both the general public and academic researchers. Additionally, those creating such online materials are generally more suc- cessful in interacting with their relevant online communities than mem- ory institutions are. As a result, instead of being viewed as mere digital ���cabinets of curiosities,��� the best digital resources created by enthusiasts and hosted on Flickr can inform the library, archive, and cultural heri- tage community about best practices in constructing online resources and communities, and reaching relevant audiences in the process. Background The rise of online ���museums��� created by amateur enthusiasts, generally containing digital images of holdings and artifacts, is a seldom considered