Boston Public Library treasures abound on Flickr
Public libraries, like museums, hold vast collections of art and design work. Unfortunately, those holdings often remain on dusty shelves, unseen. Hailing from the home of MIT and Harvard, it may be no surprise that the Boston Public Library has overcome the "dusty shelf" problem, by embracing online sharing technology, scanning and posting more than 62,000 items to Flickr.
The BPL's photostream is organized into six collections and over 300 sets. The collections include library exhibitions, historical treasures, posters, labels, Americana, post cards, manuscripts, sheet music and more.
One of the collections is Book Arts and it features over 300 works from Sarah Wyman Whitman, a 19th century artist who pioneered the field of book cover design.
Here's part of the collection description from Flickr:
Using the book as a flat, two-dimensional canvas, Whitman created cover designs that were notable for their simplicity, for the use of what we now call negative space, and for combining elements to generate a powerful balance of tension and repose. Most of her designs combine calligraphy with stylized floral shapes, many of which make subtle reference to the text, although she seldom depicted story elements directly and never worked in the poster style. She popularized the three-piece cover, frequently using white cloth for the spine and a contrasting color and texture for the covers, and she also pioneered the practice of signing her work, using a logo of a flaming heart and her initials. Her distinctive calligraphy ranges from a deliberately uneven and rustic sans serif to a formal inscriptional style. The face of modernism in her time, she was, in the words of Charles Gullans, “a forerunner who was 25 years older than the reforming generation that observed, understood, and widely imitated her example in the early 1890s.” Sarah Whitman, more than anyone else, brought the ideals of the Arts and Crafts movement to life for average Americans by creating affordable works of art for the home.
Other public libraries have Flickr offerings as well. In addition to their own digital gallery, the New York Public Library has a Flickr photostream of over 2500 images, including photos from the silent era of cinema, landscapes from around the world, classic cars, vintage ads, postcards, and more. Like the Boston collection, many of the images are "public domain" and not subject to copyright restrictions.