If flickr.com is not the world’s largest photo archive, I’d like to know what is. On November 10, 2007, the two billionth image was uploaded to the flickr website. As vast as the holdings of the various national archives around the world are, I would be amazed to learn that any of them held more than 100 million images.
Scoff if you will at the usefulness of the vast majority of these images (which are heavily weighted toward personal snapshots) but social historians regularly lament the dearth of good sources on daily life of average people. I’d say that 2 billion images from average people is a pretty good starting point for future social historians.
But, as Bill Turkel has written in a variety of posts, the information costs of an archive like this can be prohibitive. Flickr.com offers a number of ways to start sorting through the vastness (tags, clusters, groups, pools, etc.), but these are search and locate tools and/or social networking tools–not analytical tools.
For historians to take full advantage of the vastness of the new photo archives like flickr.com, we’re going to need some good algorithms to help.