First and foremost, before delving in to the main topic of today's post, may I take a wee moment and wish you all a delightfully fun Groundhog's Day. I don't know about you, but I'm certainly rooting that cute little critter fails to see his shadow. The earlier spring wants to arrive this year, the happier I'll be (though, that said, I do always enjoy the ingrained productivity that the I find the chilliest months of the year bring about, and which I sometimes yearn for when I'm melting like Crayola crayon in the sun come summertime).
Like many - most these days, actually - of us, I use at least one image, be it an illustration, a graphic or a photograph in each of my blog posts. In fact, over the nearly six years that I've been blogger now, fewer than five posts have lacked an image all together - and when they did it was always because of extenuating circumstances, such as the time back in 2010 when Tony posted on my behalf because I was unexpectedly in the hospital fighting for my life for several days and we wanted to let my readers know that I was still hanging in there (true story).
I've always been a very visually driven person and there are few things I enjoy doing online more than viewing a massive range of vintage images and using some of them in my posts. I keep Word and Evernote docs chalked full of links to images, have scores of Pinterest boards, and a huge number of images that I've favourited on flicker over the years at may wind up in my entries here one day.
I'm perpetually on the hunt for great new sources of vintage images, especially ones that are in the public domain (such as those in the Libraries and Achieves Canada, which I blogged about back in 2013), because their inclusion in this sphere makes it highly likely that that one can utilize them for personal use without having to worry very much (if at all, in many cases) about potential copyright infringement, which is something that all bloggers should keep in mind when sourcing images online.
Public domain images are just that - photos or illustrations that have been released for use, usually either due to their age or because the person or institution that owns the rights to them have released them for the general public to use freely. Without a doubt one of the largest sources of antique, historical and vintage public domain images that I've chanced upon from a single source is the Flickr stream from venerable British Library.
There are, thankfully, no shortage of accounts, often from universities, colleges, libraries, federal and national achieves on Flickr with public domain offerings, but the British Library stands out amongst them has having one of the absolute biggest arrays of old school images you'll come across anywhere online these days. How many images to they have, you be be wondering...10,000? 50,000? 100,000? More? Wayyyy more, in fact they currently have over 1,000,000 different images (primarily dating to before 1920) in their Flickr stream and that number is continually growing.
This is not one-person-and-a-scanner-in-their-basement kind of affair, but rather it must be a whole team of folks who are dedicating their time to uploading thousands upon thousands of historical images into the public domain every month. As someone who is indescribably passionate about preserving the past, this noble effort gains my deepest admiration and truly warrants being shared with one and all, which is precisely what I'm doing here today.
While I will sometimes set aside a day, a week, or even a month (during my downtime or in spurts) to go through a large Flickr stream's entire catalog of images (say, one that is 5,000 or 10,000 images big), I have not even come close to seeing the million plus images that the British Library's account houses and doubt I ever will. A person could spend months or even years trying to do so.
That said, I would estimate that (very conservatively) I've seen about 7,500 of their images at this point and continue to enjoy browsing through more on a regular basis. This is the kind of Flickr stream that you can get lost in not just for hours, but for weekends at at a time. There is an incredibly diverse, vast, and engaging array of images to be had there spanning many centuries and pertaining to near countless topics.
I couldn't begin to share all of the historical images from this hefty Flickr public domain account that have caught my eye (that would fill books worth of pages!), but I have selected 12 that recently landed on my Favourites list and which I think you'll enjoy as well. If you'd like to learn more about a specific image, please click on it to be taken to its respective British Library Flickr page.
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I hope that this treasure trove of yesteryear images sparks your interest as well and that it can be helpful to you in your own research, for blog posts, art or craft projects, historical costume research, or simply for the unbridled joy that comes from looking at and learning more about vintage images and photographs.
Though I haven't chanced upon one yet in my fun jaunts through this account, perhaps one day I'll even hit upon an image of a Groundhog there. Until then, and certainly after as well, I'll keep on returning time and time again to drink from the fountain of inspiring knowledge that is the truly jam packed Flickr stream of the British Library.
Doffing my vintage hat each time I return to the hard working, passionate folks who are doing the world a great service by preserving and sharing so many snippets of history for today's population and many future generations to come to enjoy, learn from, and yes, definitely use in their blog posts, too.