In the spirit of giving this holiday season, The British Library announced on its Digital Scholarship Blog last Thursday that it had released over one million images onto Flickr Commons for anyone to use, remix, and repurpose. The images are taken from the pages of 65,000 17th-19th century books, and span topics such as maps, wall paintings, and comic satire.
The images were selected as part of The British Library’s “Mechanical Curator” project, and thus not much is known about the individual images aside from the book and page number from which it was taken. With this release, The British Library is looking for “new, inventive ways to navigate, find and display these ‘unseen illustrations.'”
The library plans to launch a crowdsourcing application to help describe the images at the beginning of next year, much like what the Library of Congress did several years ago. The intention behind this is to use data gleaned from crowdsourcing participants to train automated classifiers that will ” run against the whole of the content.” The data and code will be under and open license, similar to the already available manifests of images available in github.
The British Library’s blogpost emphasizes the desire to collaborate with researchers and individuals interested in both the technical aspects of this project as well as future use cases.