Historic Images Get Flickr Treatment


The Library of Congress has a new Flickr page, where they plan to share some 3000 images with no known copyright restrictions.

If all goes according to plan, the project will help address at least two major challenges: how to ensure better and better access to our collections, and how to ensure that we have the best possible information about those collections for the benefit of researchers and posterity.

In other words, the Library is seeking to enhance its metadata and is turning to the wisdom of the crowd for help.

The real magic comes when the power of the Flickr community takes over. We want people to tag, comment and make notes on the images, just like any other Flickr photo, which will benefit not only the community but also the collections themselves. For instance, many photos are missing key caption information such as where the photo was taken and who is pictured. If such information is collected via Flickr members, it can potentially enhance the quality of the bibliographic records for the images.

Flickr hopes this pilot can be used as a model that other cultural institutions will pick up, thereby increasing the sharing and redistribution of the myriad collections held by cultural heritage institutions all over the world.


“That Is Quite A Departure, Charles”

American designer, architect and filmmaker Charles Eames–who together with his wife Ray, was responsible for many classic, iconic designs of the 20th century–appeared on the Arlene Francis “Home” show on NBC in 1956. It’s neat to see Eames on TV, but this episode is also an odd reminder of how square things were in 1950s America.

Evangelical Kids Receive Their Marching Orders

We watched Oscar-nominated documentary Jesus Camp last night. It was frightening to see just how serious the radical right is about the ongoing Culture War in this nation.

There are many poignant (or scarring, depending on one’s point of view) moments in the film. One of the most telling is the scene from New Life Church in Colorado Springs. Pastor Ted Haggard appears in the film and we learn, among other things, that he has a standing call every Monday with President Bush. Of course, Haggard has since been embroiled in a high-profile scandal involving homosexual prostitution and methamphetamine use. Oops.

I kept asking myself throughout the screening, “How did the filmmakers get this kind of access?” In the interview presented above, Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady say they came to the film with no pre-determined agenda, which is a bit hard to believe given their status as sophisticated New Yorkers. Agenda, or no, the film is near perfect in its revelations.

Appalachian Mountain High

We visited downtown Asheville on Saturday. After securing a healthy start (comprised of fresh squeezed apple juice, organic coffee, tempeh scramble, grits, toast, fruit, etc.) at Over Easy Breakfast Cafe, we sauntered over to The Courtyard Gallery for the 13th annual Twin Rivers Media Festival where we watched four shorts–Siren, The Little Gorilla, Buoy and Press Play. Afterwards, Andrea Lee Higgins, a singer-songwriter from Columbia, SC performed some of her originals.

We then walked up the hill to Malaprop’s Bookstore where author Elizabeth Gilbert was speaking to a packed house. Add to this a little shopping at Hunk’s and Rags Reborn Eco Chic Boutique, dinner at Savoy and live entertainment at Westville Pub later in the night and you’re talking about a heavy hit of culture courtesy of this funky southern mountain town.

One Half of American Households Are Armed

“Owning a firearm brings me some sort of balance. When I am angry at the world I find relief in dropping a clip into the air.” -Drew (photographed below)

Photographer Kyle Cassidy got the idea to document Armed America. Here’s part of his artist’s statement:

The idea was to photograph a hundred gun owners, in their homes, and do a gallery show. I figured this would take about two years. But very soon after I started, it became evident that my ambitions were too low. My mailbox flooded with letters from people I didn’t know wanting to participate — I realized that I could probably photograph a hundred people in two months, but it wasn’t a number of people that was important, it was their stories — a cowboy in Texas, a survivalist in Montana, a deer hunter in Pennsylvania, a sheriff in Georgia, a soldier in Idaho…. What I really needed, I realized, was to get moving, to drive across the country and find America somewhere between here and there.

Cassidy’s book of these photos comes out in October.

Speaking Truth To Power

We went to Atlanta’s High Museum yesterday. People were clamoring to see items on loan from The Louvre, but I didn’t care for that exhibit. The pieces that stood out for me were in the permanent Folk Art collection. Particularly, Howard Finster’s “sacred art” and the following piece from Ned Cartledge:

“The Flag Waiver,” 1970, Carved wood with paint

In the scene above a civil rights protestor is being stepped on, while a journalist is being silenced. Sadly, such things don’t belong to art and history, but to the present day, as well. The New York Times reports that 2006 was was the deadliest year on record for journalists and news media workers worldwide, with at least 155 killings and unexplained deaths.

Breaking Through Convention

“All Cats Are Grey at Night” by Sam Gilliam

This afternoon with Stefania in town we opted for culture, which brought us to The Telfair Museum’s exhibit on contemporary American visual artist, Sam Gilliam. Sam Gilliam: a retrospective, organized and circulated by the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. is an interesting collection of draped art, sculptural pieces and paintings that benefit from unique use of materials. I particularly liked seeing how much paint the man places on a canvas. For Gilliam, in many cases paint becomes a structural element, like wood or metal.

Sam Gilliam (b. 1933) established himself as a major artist in 1968 when he jettisoned the wooden stretcher bars that had previously determined the shape of his paintings and allowed his vivid, sometimes ecstatic, rushes of color-stained canvas to hang, billow, and swing through space. This was not the first time an artist working in the venerable tradition of painting had decided to abandon the conventional rigid support. But it was the only time someone had done so to create a complete painterly environment. Gilliam’s idea that modernist painting could be sculptural and, moreover, theatrical, radically distinguished him from his contemporaries, including minimalists Donald Judd and Robert Morris, color-field painter Helen Frankenthaler, and the artists associated with the Washington Color School, such as Morris Louis and Kenneth Noland. Since that time, Gilliam has gone on to create work in an astounding variety of styles and media. Sam Gilliam: a retrospective explores many of the artist’s most important innovations while highlighting the aesthetic ideals that have remained constant throughout his career. Most important among these is his consistent disregard for the boundaries that have traditionally separated the disciplines of painting, sculpture, and architecture.

Earthworks Erode/Evolve

Jon Armstrong and his wife Heather recently journeyed 100 miles northwest from their Salt Lake City home to Golden Spike National Historic Site in Box Elder County, Utah. Their destination was Spiral Jerry, a 1,500-foot coil of rocks placed there by Robert Smithson in 1970.


Smithson built the spiral out of black basalt rocks taken from the shore and arranged them to a height just above the surface of the water so people could walk on the earthwork as if on a pier. The sculpture can appear white today (as it does in the photo above) due to salt encrustation.

Smithson was one of a number of artists in the 1960s and early 70s who chose to build site-specific pieces outdoors in the West, far from the commercialism of art galleries. I first took an interest in this art form after discovering the work of Andy Goldsworthy, a contemporary British artist.