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Using Flickr: The Commons for historical photographs

November 15, 2010

Flickr: The Commons project is a useful place to search for historical photographs.  Currently, The Commons has 46 members from various countries and requests input from the public on identifying images.  Thus, this image, which is labeled “Coal Cars and Stored Coal–Loveland, Colorado” was correctly identified as being an image of sugar beets, not coal, by a Flickr user.

Sugar Beets unloaded at Loveland, Colorado

The Library annotation includes “Rights Info” which for this photograph says “No known restrictions on publication.”

The idea of letting users add tags and correct images through Flickr can be contrasted with the Denver Public Library digital photos collection.  I love this collection of photographs, not least because it includes many photographs taken by Ola Anfenson Garrison, who is buried with her husband Fred and daughter Grace in my home town.

Note the spelling of Anfenson.

Even though a search for Anfenson in the Denver Public Library database brings up records of Ola’s mother, who is referred to as Mrs. Anfenson, the library database gives her name as Ola Aftinson.  Thus we have a photograph of Mrs. Anfenson’s house.  In the cataloging record for this entry, found by searching the database for CHS-G631, the description says “Mrs. Anfenson (Ola Anfenson Garrison’s mother) poses in the doorway of her house possibly in Denver, Colorado.”  Then it says “Creator:  Garrison, Ola Aftinson.”

The Colorado Historical Society library spells her name correctly here.

When I first encountered the spelling difference, I searched for documentation, even looking up Ola and Fred’s marriage certificate where it gives her maiden name as Anfenson.

If this were on Flickr where tags and comments are allowed, I would have provided the documentation a long time and the error might have been corrected.  The library is receptive to receiving corrections; I know this because I’ve submitted some in the past.  Now if they would only make the process easier.  I intended to contact Denver Public with the documentation so that they could correct the misspelling, but when I remember the problem (like right now), I’m not sure where the documentation is.  As it is, I usually only remember the problem when I give a cemetery tour to my town’s 3rd graders.  I always include Ola and Fred on the tour.  In fact, her full name given on the tombstone is Sarah Olena Garrison.  “Ola” was the nickname she always used, a nickname which amuses the Spanish-speaking students on my tours.  We say, “Hola, Ola” when we start talking about her, and “Adios, Ola” when we leave her tombstone behind.   Next time I find the documents, I’ll scan them and mail them off.

If you’d like to see what Fred and Ola looked like in their relative youth, here are links to their portraits:


Ola (with her mother, Mrs. Anfenson)

Rats.  While I was searching for the portrait of Ola, I came across this portrait of my Aunt Orra.  Too bad it isn’t easy to tell DPL that it’s her.

UPDATE:  DPL announced that they’re moving to a new system for their images, which will allow “The ability to tag and comment on photos.”  Yay.  I can finally tell them *easily* about Aunt Orra and Ola Anfenson Garrison.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. December 16, 2010 12:06 pm

    Speaking of photos and proper credits, Harlan Ellison responded to the post of the photo of him and his typewriter, and your difficulties keeping a copy of his book were mentioned.

  2. December 18, 2010 9:17 pm

    Wow. Insulted by the great Harlan himself (I could swear he was shorter than I am).

  3. December 19, 2010 3:36 am

    I wasn’t sure if it were an insult or not. Heck, just to get the attention of the guy means something, no?

    But I know the feeling, sorta. Tom Brokaw once stepped on my umbrella and broke it. If I’d had any sense, I would have kept the umbrella as a souvenir.

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