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10 Don't Miss Historical Photo Collections on Flickr


The online photo management and sharing application Flickr hosts a wide variety of historic photo collections contributed by library, archive and historical society collections. Most of these instituions are continually adding collections, and welcome your contribution of names, descriptions, locations, and tags to help increase the usability and access of the photographs. Users can even add comments with corrections to names and dates, or with information on where to access additional information about the people, places and events pictured. You do not need a Flickr account to search and view images. You will need to sign up for a free Flickr account to add comments or tags.

In addition to the historical photo collections highlighted below, Flickr hosts dozens of other public photo archives that contain historical photographs. Visit Flickr: The Commons and click on the link for "participating institutions" to access additional collections. You can also search for groups using an event or locality name as a search term to find groups such as Historical Hamilton, with over 820 user-contributed historic photographs from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Be prepared to spend several hours viewing and exploring!

1. Historic Photos from the Library of Congress

Itinerant photographer in Columbus, Ohio. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division
The Library of Congress has shared multiple sets of digitized photos with no known restrictions on publication or distribution, including collections such as 1,600 color images from the Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information, 1,500+ images from the George Grantham Bain News Service, 1,100+ Civil War faces. and over 11,000 images that made the news during the 1910s.

2. Swedish National Heritage Board

Photo by Mårten Stenberger. Used with permission of the Swedish National Heritage Board.
Photo by Mårten Stenberger. Used with permission of the Swedish National Heritage Board.
The Swedish National Heritage Board, the agency of the Swedish government that is responsible for cultural heritage and historic environment issues, has posted over 1,000 photographs in Flickr Commons, a sampling of the more than two million photos in their public archives—including copy prints, glass plates and other negatives, slides and 98,000+ digital copies.

3. National Library of Scotland

Fowl house in the trenches in France during World War I. Photo: National Library of Scotland.
Photo: National Library of Scotland (Creative Commons license)
Over 2,000 historic photographs from the archive of the National Library of Scotland are available online in their Flickr stream, with the majority from the World War One British Photographs collection, part of the papers of Field Marshal (Earl) Haig (1861-1928).

4. Tyne & Wear Archives and Museums

A beautiful collection of historical photographs from a regional group of United Kingdom national museums and the county archives service located in the Tyne and Wear area of north-east England. Photographs document daily life in Tyne & Wear, from the construction of the RMS Mauretania on Tyneside in the early 1900s to aerial views of the county.

5. Cambridge Historical Society

Images from the photograph collection of the Cambridge (Massachusetts) Historical Society offer a fascinating look at the city, neighborhoods, and buildings, and the people who have called it home over the last 160 years

6. Powerhouse Museum Collection (Australia)

Explore historical photographs from the Tyrrell Collection consisting of 7903 glass plate negatives from the studios of Charles Kerry (1857-1928) and Henry King (1855-1923) who had two of Sydney's principal photographic studios in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

7. Mississippi Department of Archives & History

A wonderful historical map collection is just one of many unique collections uploaded to Flickr by the Mississippi Department of Archives & History (MDAH). Other sets to explore include Mississippi State Department of Health Photograph Album, ca. 1930s, a book titled "The Anti-Slavery Alphabet," and The Luther Hamilton Photograph Collection which documents the life of a Crystal Springs, Mississippi, during the first half of the twentieth century through images of houses, stores, railroad stations, schools, sports teams, street scenes, parades, weddings, and more.

8. Oregon State University Special Collections & Archives

Explore over 3,000 historical photographs from the Special Collections & Archives Research Center at Oregon State University, from hops pickers and Extension Bulletin Illustrations to images of Oregon's mills.

9. Mennonite Church USA Archives

The Mennonite Church USA Archives has uploaded over 5,000 historic photographs to Flickr, a portion of the 20 million documents, photos and audio and video recordings residing in their archive. The society also hosts MennObits, a searchable database of more than 82,000 obituaries primarily from The Gospel Herald and The Mennonite.

10. Wisconsin Historical Society

Young child and bearded man. Photo: Wisconsin Historical Society.
Photo: Wisconsin Historical Society
Over 2,400 images of Wisconsin people, places, and events are available in the collections of the Wisconsin Historical Society on Flickr. Collection themes include, among many others, cranberry farming, settling northern Wisconsin, and the Wisconsin state fair, plus collections you might not expect to find such as Photographic Views of Sherman's Campaign.

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