10. Careful Curation for Serendipitous Discovery

Libraries and archives have long been tools for serendipitous discoveries where an unexpected connection is found seemingly by accident.

“[S]cholars can become inspired by visions of wandering through vast corridors of deserted stacks and then happening on a passage in some long-dormant volume that unexpectedly reveals a special insight. For some, the promise of such treasured discoveries is at the heart of deeply felt sentiments about the library’s role in scholarship.” – Patrick Carr, College and Research Libraries

Sometimes good curators can nudge this along. This photograph of Betty Broadbent from 1938 is part of a set of images from PIX Magazine acquired by the State Library of New South Wales as part of a larger acquisition, as seen on the Flickr blog and the State Library of NSW’s blog.

Tattooed lady Betty Broadbent, 4 April 1938

That image, when uploaded to Flickr Commons, was put into four different albums so that viewers could find it alongside other images which shared certain characteristics.

1. Images of Ms. Broadbent

Tattooed lady Betty Broadbent, 4 April 1938

2. Images from PIX Magazine

Woman with a dragon tattoo, Sydney, 17 December 1937

3. Images from Australia Consolidated Press including this basket of puppies

St. Ives Dog Show, 18 March, 1950, Pix Magazine, State Library of New South Wales

4. Images that are uploaded with known date information which has some serendipitous discoveries of its own

Cyclist Hubert Opperman poses next to an REO Speed Wagon truck advertising at Peters Ice Cream Factory, Redfern (taken for Bruce Small Ltd), Australia, 19 July 1938
Linda Malden "Spring Ridge" station, 24 January 1944 / photographed by N. Herfort
Strong man, Australia, 20 May 1938
Penguins being fed at the zoo, 22 June 1945, by Alec Iverson

Flickr Commons: Grand Galleries, Admired Albums

Sorting, arranging, and displaying images from the Commons and elsewhere on Flickr

Two photographs of women, side by side in a photo album. There is a ghostly face behind the women in each image

[Album with Spirit Photographs] (Preus Museum)

Flickr Commons is a great place to go to illustrate your thoughts. I’ve used it for talking about Daylight Savings, bird watching, and reminding people to take some time off for the weekend.

The rich collection of millions of images–all of them free to use, re-use, and repurpose thanks to the No Known Copyright Restrictions designation–are a source of endless fascination.

The Commons have a sense of curation, attention to organization, the caring attention of many disparate and diverse conservators, but you can also get the buzz of a personal serendipitous discovery. The feeling, as Jessie Ransom explains,

…you can walk in looking for one thing and leave with so much more than you knew you wanted or needed.

Look at one Flickr Commons item and you can see its connections to other items, within the Commons and beyond. The two main organizing methods are Albums and Galleries.

  • Albums and Collections (sets of albums) – a member curating and organizing their own photos
  • Galleries – a member curating photos from others’ collections

Admirable Albums

Here’s an example photo, a favorite from the Library of Congress.

A Library salute to National Photography Month and the photographer’s skill for staging eye-catching compositions  (LOC)


Going to that photo’s web page shows where else it appears.


screenshot from flickr.com showing six of the 37 galleries this photo has been added to. It is also in one album called

It’s in one album from the LOC called Not An Ostrich and thirty-seven different galleries including “People with books,” “badass women,” and “Taking on the World” all of which are fun to explore.

Unlike physical photo albums, digital images can be in more than one album at once so this astronaut photo from NASA is in an album called Astronauts and also one called The Gemini Program.

Apollo 11 LM Interior

Some other fun albums from Commons Members include:

Dog following a caravan

Jumping for joy, in Bulimba, Queensland, 1918

Learn more about creating or managing Albums on Flickr.

Grand Galleries

A Gallery is a way for Flickr users to curate images in other members’ collections.

Color photograph of a girl dressed like flower or butterfly


This image of a girl dressed like a butterfly from The Field Museum Library is in their Album, called Flower Children, but also six Galleries including Girl Child, storytellers, and one only called “4.”


Carla Wallenda rides a bicycle on a high wire

Searching the Commons for “fun” reveals this photo of Carla Wallenda from Florida Memory which is in thirty-nine Galleries including

Eénwielige motorfiets / One wheel motor cycle

Other Flickr users make their own Galleries specifically with Flickr Commons content.

Helen Richey 084

Flickr user wakethesun has created a massive set of Galleries many of which are entirely Flickr Commons content.

screenshot from wakethesun's gallery page showing for Commons galleries each of which focus on a different type of animal: primates, elephants, camels and "wild ungulates"


Poke around and you’re sure to find something you enjoy!

Learn more about creating, adding or sharing Galleries on Flickr.