Flickr Commons timeline

Flickr Commons timeline

An interactive timeline taking images straight from over 100 different institutions on Flickr Commons using the Flickr API

This is a great example of how easy it can be to throw together a visualisation tool when you have the three magic ingredients

  • good content with good metadata
  • a good API to query and extract the content
  • an open source tool to display it

This was developed in 2012. Simile Timeline is no longer in development, but still broadly works (though less so on mobile) and they still host the javascript library, so all that is needed is a small helper script that polls the Flickr api. This took about 20 lines of code using the well established phpFlickr library which includes great caching, meaning it can efficiently paginate through five api calls per page load and serve up to 2,500 data points in the exact xml format required by Timeline.

In the interface I added the facility to select just images for any one institution, but then you’re dependent on who has spent the most time fine tuning their metadata, specifically setting the ‘date taken’ attribute. National Library of Ireland are a stand out example here.

Flickr Commons timeline
Example timeline from the National Library of Ireland on Flickr Commons

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.