Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Google love: The resurrection of LIFE's ten million image archive

Consider this one image.
Prisoners gathering en masse at distribution point to receive their daily rations of food, at Civil War-time Andersonville prison.
Location: Andersonville, GA, US
Date taken: August 1864
It's blurry. Chaotic. Hard to make out. A jumble of mud and anonymity. The men are posing for the camera, while waiting for rations.

Just one of millions of photographs now available in Google's archive of LIFE magazine. There will be 10 million of these in months to come. (I checked, http://images.google.com/hosted doesn't show any other hosted repositories yet.)

Resurrected from dusty negatives and prints...
Official Google Blog: LIFE Photo Archive available on Google Image Search

The Zapruder film of the Kennedy assassination; The Mansell Collection from London; Dahlstrom glass plates of New York and environs from the 1880s...

... We're excited to announce the availability of never-before-seen images from the LIFE photo archive. This effort to bring offline images online was inspired by our mission to organize all the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful. This collection of newly-digitized images includes photos and etchings produced and owned by LIFE dating all the way back to the 1750s.

Only a very small percentage of these images have ever been published. The rest have been sitting in dusty archives in the form of negatives, slides, glass plates, etchings, and prints. We're digitizing them so that everyone can easily experience these fascinating moments in time. Today about 20 percent of the collection is online; during the next few months, we will be adding the entire LIFE archive — about 10 million photos....

... These amazing photos are now blended into our Image Search results along with other images from across the web.

Once you are in the archive, you'll also notice that you can access a rich full-size, full-screen version of each image simply by clicking on the picture itself in the landing page....
Sometimes I think of Google as a device sent back in time to create archives for the Skynet's reading pleasure. What wondrous things, she thinks, those apes were.

I wonder if this cost Google anything other than scanning fees? The images weren't doing LIFE any good, and now it has Google to manage them. LIFE can even monetize the copies of the images that can be ordered from the "hosted" (implying non-ownership) archive.

Astounding times.

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