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The US Library of Congress serves as the national library for the United States, based in Washington, DC. With more than 134 million items preserved on some 530 miles of bookshelves, it’s also the world’s largest library. It’s not just home to books, the library also stores photos, maps, databases, movies, sound recordings, sheet music, manuscripts, and information in many other formats.

It’s most recent public-private partnership with photo management and sharing service Flickr, dubbed The Commons, is the Library’s “first collaboration with a civic institution to facilitate giving people a voice in describing the content of a publicly-held photography collection. These beautiful, historic pictures from the Library represent materials for which there is no known intellectual property owner, and therefore, “no known copyright restrictions.”

The project aims to make known the hidden treasures in the huge Library of Congress collection, and to demonstrate how adding user-generated metadata can make the collection even richer. The Commons is also a test model that other cultural institutions may use on day to share and redistribute the myriad collections of content held by cultural heritage institutions around the globe.

Can Anyone Use Photographs With “No Known Copyright Restrictions?”

For the time being on Flickr this new usage is being contained to the Library of Congress account. If the pilot is successful, the Library aims to allow other interested cultural institutions the opportunity to extend the application of “no known restrictions” to their catalogs.

How To Get Involved

The best way to get involved is to contribute some tags to the photos provided by the Library of Congress account. If the Library can demonstrate that this is a useful, productive endeavor, they can expand the program to include all sorts of collections!

Additional Resources