1,000,000 And Counting: Metro Library’s Historic Photo Collection On Flickr Hits A Major Milestone

Opening of Los Angeles Railway's 4th Street Viaduct in August, 1931.

Today, we achieved something extraordinary:  Our online photo collection has been viewed more than one million times on Flickr since implementation.

Just over two years ago, we began uploading the first of what is now more than 7,000 scanned images from our historic collection of over 20,000 photographs in order to more effectively share our cultural repository of transportation history online.

We wanted to share its resources more broadly with our users and potential users, but had no idea how popular these images would be.

While our YouTube Channel‘s video collection and Scribd online document-sharing collection have also experienced heavy use, our historic photos have captured the imagination of those interested in Los Angeles transportation history.

Local users as well as visitors to our site from around the world have looked at our photographs more than a million times in just 28 months — an average of 140 times per image!

From its inception in October, 2008, our low-cost Flickr photo collection has received enthusiastic feedback from its users, many of whom have used our photos in blogs, other online publications, magazines, books, television series, films and museum exhibits.

Mouseketeers help Walt Disney christen the Disneyland Express Bus, November 19, 1955

Researchers have found images to support both scholarly and popular works – everything from academic titles and journal articles to local blogs to a history of the Disney Mouseketeers.

The images in this collection include many that had rarely been seen prior to our uploading them to our Flickr collection.

Some date back to the 1880s but can be “handled” by many eyes without compromising the integrity of the physical originals.

Other images offer a glimpse at early Los Angeles, complimenting the growth of and changes in the region alongside transportation history.

USC School of Architecture, History Channel, PBS, Los Angeles Times, Arcadia Publishing and Parsons Brinckerhoff are just a few of the institutions with whom we have worked to release our visual resources for public consumption.

Many of these photos would never be found and used if they were not searchable within Flickr and located within our collection.

Photo-sharing websites allow individuals and groups to reach many more people than they would through their own website or publicly-accessible storage system.

SCRTD bus at 1984 Olympic Games

High-profile web-hosted access like Flickr serve to raise awareness that special collections such as ours exist, promote their use, and allow people to participate in identifying historical details of these images.

It is an important part of community outreach for Metro via its Library, Archive and Records functions, much like the Flickr photo collections that are hosted by The Getty Research Institute, The Smithsonian Institution, The Library of Congress, NASA and others.

Metro staff members, transportation researchers, transit advocates and others also use our Flickr collection for personal enjoyment and other purposes.

Users have come forward to identify individuals in images, locations where photos were taken, and to provide information about events, equipment, and other historical facts.

Subway construction tunnel-boring machinery

They can then see others’ comments, thereby promoting dialogue and learning while everyone benefits from the growth in information about the images.

As more libraries, museums, archives, historical associations, and cultural legacy organizations share their photographic collections via the web, these institutions enrich the experience of searching for visual resources and increased knowledge.

We are proud to play our part:  Collecting, preserving, providing access to and supporting the findability of transportation-related information as well as other history of the Los Angeles area.

By the numbers, as of 2/3/2011:

Total photo views as of 1:40am: 1,000,000 and counting…

Photos in Flickr collection:  7,145

Most viewed photo:  1929 Aerial photo of downtown Los Angeles, when City Hall was still the tallest building — accessed 1,521 times

Photos enhanced with user comments:  529

Photos “favorited” by viewers:  1,557