To date the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney has never had a photographic exhibition, and yet their collection of photos has become a revenue stream. How?
Well first of all they started loading the Tyrell Collection – a set of more than 7000 glass plate images known to be free from copyright – to flickr under a creative commons licence. In other words they put the images into public space, in effect they gave them away. So again how did that become a revenue stream?
Before setting up the flickr account the powerhouse had some of the Tyrell collection on their site, and were fairly happy with their 30,000+ visitors per year. In the first two weeks of putting the collection onto flickr saw more than 40,000 visitors.
Visitor interest has been really high, with visitors helping to identify where some of the collection is shot, and actively commenting on some of the images. The museum has also picked up on a mashup of their images, google maps and google streetview to allow a then and now comparison, the mashup was developed not by the employees of the museum, but by a fan. Other fans have made a more lowtech comparison, using images from the Tyrell collection in the foreground of a photo of the current environment.
Some photobuffs have gone to even more trouble creating remixed versions of the images.
The museum works hard to load up the collection, to produce a “photo of the day” blog, and to collect images on flickr into the Tyrell today group on flickr (and link them to their historical equivalents. It’s a lot of work, but it’s paying dividends. It’s all been successful enough for the Powerhouse to create a book – published on demand – of the best of their flickr experience called “Then and Now“.
Their once dusty collection has become a revenue stream with uses and orders of their photos increasing year on year. The collection has become an asset, maybe one day it will even earn itself its very own exhibition.