One of the great and positive accomplishments of the Internet is the ability to save pieces of history forever. This happens every day on the Web, but one of the major projects has been archiving photographs from as early as 1500 onto Yahoo's newly renovated Flickr. The idea was that 14 million images from the Internet Archive Blog would be preserved on Flickr by Kalev Leetaru, a technology scholar. This week, the Flickr account eclipsed 2.5 million images that can now be searched, viewed and shared.
Leetaru has taken the task of scouring through 600 million pages in the Internet Archive, with help of course, in order to showcase history in a new and interesting way via Flickr. Previously, if one wanted to look at the 1600s version of Lolcats, the task would've proven more difficult. Now, within a few clicks, you can quickly take a glimpse into the past through a vast array of imagery.
As Leetaru puts it, for too long the Internet has been concerned with simply scanning in text and keeping that in PDF form.
For all these years all the libraries have been digitising their books, but they have been putting them up as PDFs or text searchable works. They have been focusing on the books as a collection of words. This inverts that.
The images he's after range from 1500 to 1922, when copyright laws place limitations on the ability to simply scan and preserve works of art and other media. Leetaru also developed him own software to accomplish this goal. Instead of previous OCR software that is able to ignore pictures, his code actually takes that information to specifically target images to save as individual files. The software is then able to snag a caption for each image, when applicable, and can grab the text right before and after the image as well. After that's done, the software automatically posts the image to Flickr, text included.
All of this came to be after Leetaru worked on a communications technology project at Georgetown University, where the research was funded by Yahoo, which explains how Flickr became the method of choice. "Stretching half a millennia, it's amazing to see the total range of images and how the portrayals of things have changed over time," he said. What's even cooler is the ability to type "cat" or "telephone" and you're then able to see all images that fall under the specific tag.
Leetaru has added that he wants to see Wikipedia and other common license organizations get involved with his Flickr endeavor so that all media can be tagged and categorized so it can be easily searched. Have you viewed the page yet? There's some pretty incredible images from over 300 years ago. What's your favorite? Let us know in the comments section below.