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Five years ago today the Flickr Commons was launched. Since then, about 250,000 images from 56 different libraries, archives and museums have been uploaded, promoting the world’s photographic collections in all its splendour. I don’t think any of us envisioned the response it has elicited from audiences around the world. In particular, from a large group of elite photo investigators, people the National Library of Ireland refers to as the ‘Flickeroonies’ and who we often call the ‘super sleuths’. This group have invested hours upon hours of thorough research identifying people, places and key events, adding new meaning to the images on The Commons. To celebrate The Commons’ 5th birthday and, as a hats off to these contributors, The Library of Congress sent out a call for the most viewed, commented or favourited images on The Commons. We, and quite a number of other institutions, answered the call and the result was a fascinating array of snapshots from the past.

Baby and a dog on a sailing ship, c 1910. By Samuel Hood, ANMM Collection 00023789

Baby and a dog on a sailing ship, c 1910. By Samuel Hood, ANMM Collection 00023789

Baby and a dog on a sailing ship, by Samuel Hood, ANMM Collection 00034838

A group of children hoisted in a crate on board HMAS Canberra, 1931. By Samuel Hood, ANMM Collection 00034838

Since the museum’s involvement in The Commons in 2008, we have had countless Flickr members contribute their time and effort to solving the photographs from the collections of Samuel J Hood, William Hall, Harold Nossiter, Poul C Poulsen, Harry Brisbane Williams and Frederick Garner Wilkinson. We have uploaded almost 2,000 images and accrued over a million total views.

On ANZAC day in 2012 we amassed over 110,000 total views to the site when we posted this series of Australian soldiers marching the streets of Sydney during World War I. We’ve had a wealth of comments generated, with Circular Quay fleshed out in all its detail back in 1889. Interesting historical figures and pretty ladies have been identified, key events exposed and vessel experts have recognised the tiniest details. Like a ‘jigsaw coming together’, as one of our most prolific users commented, my colleague Penny Hyde and I have been able to piece some of the most interesting stories together, proving the oft-quoted saying that a picture tells a thousand words.

Shining through these discoveries is the power of the Flickr Commons community. These are the people that have made the whole experience worthwhile, that have shared invaluable knowledge, solved mysteries and resurrected the past. Three cheers for the super sleuths and a happy 5th birthday to The Commons!

Nicole Cama
Curatorial assistant

The museum’s Flickr Commons feed is updated daily by Penny Hyde and Nicole Cama. We welcome research suggestions from our followers. Or, tell us your favourite and immerse yourself in the museum’s diverse photographic collection!


Nicole and Penny

Nicole Cama and Penny Edwell (the artist formerly known as Penny Hyde) work as Digital Curators at the Australian National Maritime Museum in Darling Harbour, Sydney. We blog about events, people and most importantly - the museum's collection. We hope to open up the museum's collection to virtual visitors, blow off the dust and reveal some of the wonderful objects and stories held in the archives and storage rooms of the museum.