Using Flickr to provide public access to private and public collections.Paper presented at the ASA / ARANZ / PARBICA joint conference Brisbane 16 October 2009 Jenny Scott Content Services LibrarianState Library of South Australia
Using Flickr to provide public accessto private and public collections Jenny Scott State Library of South Australia
On 14 August 1945 when the announcementof the end of the war in the Pacific was made24 year old Flight Lieutenant Alastair ‘Scotty’Scott was Adjutant of RNZAF No. 6 Squadronoperating PBY-5 and PB2B-1 Catalina flyingboats from Halavo Bay in the SolomonIslands.
Scotty’s responsibilities as 6 Squadron moved out ofHalavo Bay included closing the base.In the process he recovered a collection ofphotographic negatives and prints that in the rushto return to peacetime conditions were at risk ofbeing discarded.The memories of Halavo Bay; mosquitoes, rations,and distance from loved ones, were recent enoughthat few gave priority to photographs that recordedthe men and activities of the Squadron. But Scotty in his methodical way did, carrying them with him from Halavo Bay to Fiji to Shelly Bay to Whenuapai to Ohakea to Wellington and on retirement in 1971 to Adelaide.
In 1991 Scotty’s health deteriorated and I got out the old photos andstarted asking questions, questions that now had some urgency.Together we wrote to former 6 Squadron members attempting toidentify the men in the photos and collect memories of Halavo Bay.
John Hamilton (1992) describes the rescue of three airmenBut technology in 1992 was not what it is in 2009 and snail mailand photocopying did not provide the speed of access to getthe job done before Scotty died on 22 November 1993.
Following Scotty’s death the photos, letters and assortedrecords went into storage, but were not forgotten and a meansof providing access to them was often considered. The development of Web 2.0 technologies particularly Flickr offered a solution and in March 2008 I began the process of scanning and loading the images to Flickr.
Prior to this however as with any project some questions needed to beanswered.•Why was I putting the photos on Flickr?The answer to this question would inform the answers of otherquestions.•What level of digitising should I use?•What format and level of resolution should I load to Flickr?•How much control of the images did I hope to retain?•Considering I had so little detailed description how could I makethem findable?
Why put the photos on Flickr?The answer came from working with poorlydescribed photographic collections. There arecountless undescribed or poorly describedphotos whose heritage value is minimal butwhose potential value is considerable if only theywere accurately described.I had photos and records of 200+ mostlyanonymous RNZAF 6 Squadron members,Solomon Islanders, and other people associatedwith the Squadron.Most of these people I believed would havechildren and grandchildren who may like awartime photo of their father or grandfather .
Given that the primary motivation of providing access was the provision of copies to the subjects family it made sense to digitise the photographs• FIRSTLY to a high preservation standard that would negate the need to rescan later, and• SECONDLY to reformat the digital image to an ACCESS standard that would meet the multiple requirements that they;(a) be of a format and size that would be easily loaded to the website,(b) equally easily downloaded from the website , and(c) also of a size that a reasonable quality paper print could be obtained from the downloaded image without anyone needing to contact me directly.
This is fine but digitisation does not happen by itself.The HARDWARE used was•DELL Inspiron 9400 laptop computer•EPSON V700 Scanner with the capability to scan documents, prints,negatives of various formats and transparencies.The SOFTWARE used was•Adobe Photoshop CS2Neither this hardware orsoftware was used to capacityand cheaper options would havedone the job just as well.
Digitisation.Each image was scanned to have a minimum of 3000 pixels on the long axisand saved as a TIFF File.Each TIFF file was then reformatted to a minimum of 1200 pixels on thelong axis and resaved as a JPEG•What was not taken into account at the outset was that aged 6 Squadronmembers would require higher resolution images to assist them in puttingnames to faces.
FlickrI established a Flickr pro account ($US25.00 per annum)Created a RNZAF 6 Squadron 1943-45 SetThe JPEG images were then loaded in batches to Flickr
Once the scans loaded and described on Flickr I waited to see if theyattracted any interest.Pro accounts on Flickr are searched by Google and the 6 Squadron photoshad the advantage that a search on ‘Halavo’ was certain to produce a hit.Although the images always received attention contacts were few exceptfrom flying boat and aviation enthusiasts – not the 6 Squadron familymembers who could provide additional I was hoping for.A downside of loading images that could easily be printed resulted in oneindividual selling them on the New Zealand ‘Trade Me’ website.
But each month one or two people contacted me includingin March this year the current RNZAF 6 SquadronAdjutant, Squadron Leader Ian Brausch, who is piecingtogether the seemingly neglected squadron history.This resulted in a new trans Tasman collaborationdeveloping an awareness of the squadron’s history. On 26 August I sent an email to the Dominion Post newspaper in Wellington …
Email 24 August 2009Dear Dominion Post,I would like to bring your reader’s attention to 111 photos of ex-members ofRNZAF No. 6 Flying Boat Squadron in the Solomon Islands during 1944 and 1945.The 200+ men in these photos are largely unidentified but there must be manyhundreds of their children and grandchildren in New Zealand who would like awartime photo of their father or grandfather. …These photos are of a size they can be copied gratis from my Flickr site athttp://www.flickr.com/photos/adelaide_archivist/sets/72157604150119757/ afact that didn’t get past one low life who has been copying some of them andselling them on Trade Me! Of course if family members want a larger digital copy Iam happy to provide them gratis as well. …If you think this may make an interesting story for your readers I would be happyto provide any additional information you think you may need.RegardsJenny ScottAdelaide South Australia
The plea for information had an immediate response and 90 peopleemailed – many identifying their husband or father among the photos.“My husband was a member of the RNZAF Marine Section with6th Squadron at Halavo Bay in 1945. Though he is now in his 90thyear he is able to identify some of the personnel, though hiseyesight is not good and health issues make concentrationdifficult. I can also identify him in a couple he has not seen as yet.… I think time is of the essence here as my husbands health isailing noticeably.” “It’s really good for our family as well”
These responses further confirmed my belief that a photograph’sheritage value is only as good as the description thataccompanies it.In addition I had the letters and memoirs from 1992 and wantedto create a means by which the two formats could support eachother.
In August this year Australian War Memorial Web Manager LizHolcombe wrote an article for the Collections Australia Network(CAN) Blog about blog trails giving me a solution A RNZAF 6 Squadron blog.…
“The family all agree that my father wrote his book tocapture the history so it could be shared with others –this Air Force section should be with your informationon the blog” “Dad got his D.F.C whilst in command of XX-T”“I am a member of the Catalina Club of NZ and as weunderstand the only female Catalina Captain in the world” “I crewed with Ken Smith at Lauthala Bay OTU in February 1945, arriving 6 FB Sqdn. beginning April”“Dad has sadly passed away however his memory stays”
With this level of interest comes offers of more – Photographs, recordsand memories …
And new means of discovery … http://www.digitalnz.org/