How do you preserve 50 billion photos?

iPRES, 2024

Alex and George are looking forward to running a Birds of a Feather session at the 2024 iPRES International Conference on Digital Preservation. Here’s our abstract:

Flickr has more than 50 billion photos, a vast and growing collection beginning at the first days of photography and continuing to just moments ago. But as we’ve seen, social media platforms can go dark or disappear at short notice, and take with them unique and enormous slices of our cultural heritage. Can we do better?

How do you preserve something like Flickr? It’s simply too big for any one cultural heritage institution to preserve, so what else can we do?

And what do you select to preserve from Flickr? What makes up an archival version of a Flickr photo? How do we do better than a bucket of JPEGs? Which metadata is valuable? How do we represent the networked nature of objects in a service like Flickr?

At the Flickr Foundation, our mission is to keep Flickr photos visible for 100 years. What does long-term stewardship of social objects mean? What do we need to put in place to govern across generations?

We’re considering these questions as we develop our Data Lifeboat concept, which is part of our Content Mobility program. We’d love to share this work with you, and hear what you think. Come along to this session to hear about what we’ve been working on, what we’ve already made, and other questions we’re stumped by.