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Tech Tuesday: Machine Tags on Our Flickr Images

by on May 11, 2010


We joined Flickr last summer as a new way to share our photos with the public. These photos are also available via our online catalog, the Archival Research Catalog (ARC). From the iconic Mathew Brady Civil War photographs to the stirring images from the Environmental Protection Agency’s DOCUMERICA endeavor in the 1970s, thousands of people have viewed and commented on our sets, sharing great comments and insights into our holdings.

Acting on a suggestion that came to us from one fan of our photostream, we have recently gone through all of our photos on Flickr (that’s over five thousand!) and added machine tags for the unique ARC ID numbers to all of them.  These machine tags will appear where all of the other tags can be seen, but they are created in a special format that will allow users to manipulate and mashup our images and data in exciting new ways.  Machine tags are set up with three specific parts that combine in a unique way for programmers (and computers) to read.  Our machine tags on Flickr look like this:

nara:arcid=1634221

The first part means it’s from us (NARA), the second part means that we are providing the ARC ID number, and the third part is the unique ARC ID number itself.

machine-tags-screen-shot

Now that machine tags have been added to Flickr images, new mashups, or combinations of data and images, can be created.  For example, someone using our ARC data sets available through the NARA Open Government initiative  can now synch up that catalog data with data pulled out of the Flickr API from our photostream — all of the comments, tags, and descriptions that go along with that image can be mapped to the original catalog data.  With countless ways to visualize and mashup images and data from our holdings, the possibilities of what you could create with our photo sets are now even more endless and hopefully a bit easier.  So head on over to our Flickr photostream and see what we’re talking about. Developers, don’t forget to let us know if you create something amazing using the Flickr API and our machine tags. We would love to see it!


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