Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Worth a thousand words

From the desk of Sean Rodman, Strategic Partnerships Manager at the Royal BC Museum Is this a family photo with a group of aliens? Perhaps a field of cartoon ghosts?

Sometimes pictures from the past aren't very self-explanatory. This photo actually comes from Osoyoos, and was taken in 1943. It's a field of Zucca melons, which can grow to be over 100 pounds in weight! (More about the brief craze for Zucca melon growing can be found here and here.)

This is an example of one of the challenges that museums and archives often face: a photograph may be an accurate reflection of a moment in history. But determining what exactly was going on in that moment can be difficult.

One modern way of overcoming this is through the use of "crowdsourcing", as can be seen on the Flickr Commons site. The Commons shows you the hidden treasures in a range of public photography archives, and uses your input and knowledge to help make these collections even richer.

In the Commons, you aren't meant to be a passive viewer. You can view, tag, and annotate photographs, adding your own knowledge to the broader collection. Here's an example: a picture taken by one of the Royal BC Museum's early staff, William Newcombe, which has been submitted to the Commons by the Smithsonian.

Photographs are worth a thousand words...but sometimes those words are a conversation. Hope you join in!

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The Royal BC Museum is located in Victoria, British Columbia on Canada's west coast. We preserve BC's human and natural history and share it with the world. How do we do that? That's what this blog is about.

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