If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it...

Tennessee v. John T. Scopes Trial: The seven scientists asked to testify for the defense standing in We are nearing the 2nd anniversary of the Smithsonian launching on the Flickr Commons. I remember it distinctly because it was in the months leading up to my wedding that we were furiously gathering photos to contribute to the effort. We launched with six sets (American Celebrations, People and the Post, Portraits of Artists , Portraits of Scientists and Inventors, The Smithsonian’s First Photographer, and Smithsonian Folklife Festival) and just under 1000 photos. We pressed the ‘make public’ button on June 16, 2008 and waited. We had extremely high expectations from the splash that the Library of Congress made when they launched.  Somewhat dismayed by our comparably smaller ripple, it was exciting nonetheless. And after two years in the Flickr Commons community, good things come to those who wait. Clarence S. Darrow (center) standing near Rhea County Courthouse with unidentified man (left) and Ar One of the numerous good things was the donation of ten photographs documenting the infamous Scope Monkey “Trial of the Century.” The Smithsonian Archives had launched a collection of photos documenting the trial to the Commons on September 29, 2008. Fuzzy and in black-and-white, these photos were amazing in what they conveyed about the experience and buzz surrounding the trial. Our photo “views” counts exploded with numerous notes of appreciation. But the buzz died down and we moved on. Lo and behold, nearly a year later, Ms. Henrietta Silverman Jenrette contacted us through our website requesting that we accept her donation of 10 photos of the trial that her father attended with his previous high school biology teacher. The reason? “I appreciate the way the photos the Smithsonian has are available online for all to see.” Read more about the donation here. In the day-to-day grind of making the Smithsonian’s photography collections available for study and enjoyment, we face many obstacles. Some are quite real - lack of resources and equipment to describe, digitize, and store these records of history. Others are cultural - we haven’t had the time to research copyright or content, we are afraid that people will abuse or misuse these and possibly make us an accomplice along the way, etc. I understand the incredible efforts archivists and historians make in collecting, describing, and preserving these collections, and I hear that in these statements. However, for those brave souls who have gone somewhat counter to their training and “let go,” the rewards, such as the one I described above, are enormous. To all the archivists who haven’t been able to describe and touch every paper and photo in your archive, we understand and we hope you know you don’t need forgiveness. Your job is endless, sometimes thankless, and incredibly valuable. The public is admittedly greedy and are becoming accustomed to “always on,” open, and free. So, even if all your “i’s” aren’t dotted and "t's" aren't crossed, put them out there! We'll still enjoy them and appreciate everything you do.

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