Digital artefacts are the foundations of our online world. Every website is a story telling tool with a function to preserve, document or showcase something. While I love many websites and online media, I kept coming back to shorpy.com This website is something which hosts millions of really high-resolution photographs documenting the contributors past. These are photographs previously unseen by the public and held in the Library of Congress archives.
The website itself, is simple layout and format with focus heavily set on the photographs. The user can easily navigate the site without issue. This archive gives more than just a quick glimpse into times gone past, it gives the viewer High Definition images that shows minute detail moment in time that the photograph was taken. It details the scene itself, from the close up of cobbles stones and to the people in high-rise building behind net curtains in their homes. The access this gives to today’s viewer is incredible. A written historical document may only tell part of a story, while the photography in high resolution with full zoom ability goes the viewer huge volumes of credible information. This is Information that can be read without bias. It simply is what it is. The viewer is given an unobjectionable position allowing them to really explore the data that the photograph holds, an ability to extract a story from the information available to them.
The images themselves were most likely taken at a time when preservation for future generations wasn’t a concept or necessity. The photos cover areas of everyday life from over 100 years ago. The information included in the photographs is a rich tapestry with every viewer taking something different away from it. What I like most about the photographs is that a large number of them were candid and not posed. They are examples of real life as it took place. The photos document machinery, vehicles, buildings, structures etc. The Shorpy platform gives any historian an amazing treasure throve of resources to dive into. It is said that for history to be relevant, it not only has to be accessible, but detailed enough that it feels alive. This website allows viewers to become immersed in their subject matter. The value is immeasurable. This public image library has huge value.
This library has sparked further digitization by present generations. Animators have taken the photographs and created a glimpse of life through motion picture. The following are Vimeo videos showcase the works of the original photographers as well as the work of the present day animators as storytellers.
The Shorpy.com website has also provided a platform for public collaboration and engagement. The comments section gives voice to those who may have context or information on the photographs and provides the viewers with a forum to discuss, reminisce and inform.
There are many other websites that host collections of historical photos, many like https://www.flickr.com/photos/library_of_congress/sets/72157603671370361/ have focused on specific eras with photos reworked and enhanced to have a full colour output. These images too are from the Library of Congress, yet they do not have the high resolution, high definition and zoom abilities that Shorpy.com is best known for.
As Flickr hosts the images, it doesn’t provide for the same open accessibility or collaborative interactions as Shorpy does. Flickr simply provides a gallery space to showcase the photos but nowhere is there a place to add context or background. This human interaction and connection is something that I feel is necessary in order for any digital artifact to be successful. After all, why are we creating online platforms, which do not educate, inform, or give a space for interaction between the humanities to take place.
The main reason that I have enjoyed and engage with this digital platform so much is simply down to the fact that this is simply a huge collection of historical data, which has been published for the world to see. Published for every digital architect, every digital archaeologist every storyteller to delve into and give a voice to.