Flickr, the Library of Congress, and Titanic Survivors

Titanic survivors along side Carpathia
Library of Congress image of Titanic survivors alongside Carpathia

The Library of Congress has just released over 3,000 royalty free photographs on Flickr. While this represents just a tiny fraction of the Library's 1 million plus digital images, it does provide a new avenue of access to the collection.

The release consists of two collections. The 1930s-40s in Color collection features 1,615 pictures from the Farm Security Administration and Office of War Information. The News in the 1910s collection consists of 1,500 black and white photos from the George Grantham Bain News Service which even includes a photograph of George Washington's teeth. Together these two image collections provide a fascinating look back at American history of the early to mid-20th century.

One of the photographs that I came across while going through the collection was the image shown above: TITANIC survivors on way to rescue-ship CARPATHIA. If you examine the full size image of the photograph you will see that it doesn't look quite right. Also interestingly the photo is dated as “between 1910 and 1915”. I found this curious since the exact date of the recovery of the Titanic's survivors is a matter of record (April 15, 1912). So is it a photograph of one of Titanic's lifeboats – or just some generic or staged lifeboat image that the news service labeled as being of survivors of the Titanic?

An excerpt from the full size version on Flickr is shown in Figure 1 below.

Titanic survivors, Flickr full size
Figure 1. Full size section of Titanic survivors in lifeboat being rescued by the Carpathia.

I next went to the Library of Congress' site and downloaded their full size scan (22 megabytes). Shown below is a full size excerpt of the two passengers from the rear upper left of the lifeboat.

Library of Congress Titanic scanx
Figure 2. Full size excerpt from the Library of Congress' scan.

From this high resolution version, it appears obvious that the original glass negative has been retouched in the form of someone inking in black lines in order to “improve” the picture. In my opinion the emotional impact of the image suffers as a consequence and the poor quality of this “improvement” serves as a visual distraction to the viewer

I recommend that you take a trip over to the Library of Congress Flicker Photograph Collection and browse through the collection. For more information about the Library of Congress photographs on Flickr visit the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Reading Room. The full digital image collection of the Library of Congress can be browsed at the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Online Catalog where over 1 million digitized images are available.

| Return to the Blog Index | This entry was posted on Thursday, January 17th, 2008 at 9:09 pm and is filed under Digital Art, Digital Photography.