The Internet Archive is best known for preserving billions of web pages but many may be surprised to learn that its 19 petabytes of data also include more than 600 million pages of digitized texts dating back more than 500 years.
As part of a new project called The Commons, the Internet Archive is bringing the images and surrounding texts of these scanned documents to life on Flickr.
While there are more than 14 million total images that will eventually make it to Flickr, the Internet Archive is starting off with a modest collection of 2.6 million pictures. That’s still plenty of pictures to cover virtually every topic and it’s not just the imagery that’s impressive.
Each image in the collection has been meticulously described with information like page number, publication, author, subject and even publisher. And as mentioned above, the text appearing above and below most images has also been included in each Flickr description.
This text is especially important as it allows viewers to keyword search more than 500 years of images. For example, searching for “love” yields a slew of images of cherubs and courtship while querying the term “mortis” reveals the early modern period’s fascination with death.
It’s worth pointing out that images in this collection aren’t from some recently unearthed archive. They’ve been digitized for years but have remained largely out of the public eye – essentially hiding right in plain sight.