Dream Image Archive: Rare Books and Prints(Category: Research, Creative / Artistic, Entrepreneurial)

Name of Submitter(s): Silvija Aurylaite

Organisation: Public Domain City

‘Dream Image Archive’ is an idea of a playful online project: an attempt to collect the keywords of illustrations from Rare Books and Prints, which are most on demand in design communities. It is like ‘Google Trends’ for rare illustrated sources where the keywords are suggested by the creative professionals.
‘Dream Image Archive’ is aimed at young independent creatives, mostly designers, in such fields as fashion, textile, print and web, game, industrial, product design, who use illustrations as part of their creative process. They usually have three options: to buy images from image stocks, to commission an illustrator, or to draw an image themselves, if they are trained in that. In recent years, the creatives gradually discover open historical collections by the GLAMs (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums) around the world, including the digital collections by the British Library.
This is an idea of the Dream Archive, because it is based on a hypothetical scenario that all the historical image collections, published before 1870, were digitized and creatives could search, like in Google, for whatever they want for their new design works. The metadata of the British Library’s Image Collections (all image collections, not only digitized) could be used to generate a sample cloud of keywords, which would reflect the diversity and commonality in the topics of Rare Books and Prints.

‘Dream Image Archive’, a simple one page website, invites creative professionals to do three steps:
1) Write down 3-5 keywords - what are you currently looking for?
2) Shortly describe the project for which you need these images (is it a book cover, leaflet for the festival, product package, graffiti etc.)
3) Tell your name, city & profession (contact details - optional)
The creatives submit these details in a form of a ‘Letter of Love’, or ‘Dream’.
For example: I am looking for “many interesting shapes of balloons” for “poetry book”. My name is “Nico”, I am from “Nice”, I am “a book designer”.

The goal is to learn what are the independent creatives currently looking for? What kind of historical illustrations are mostly sought after for new thoughtful designs? This experiment will show where such extraordinary historical images have the best resonance (e.g. game design); what kinds of projects the creatives have in mind; and which cities have the largest communities of creatives interested in authentic historical imagery. The results of this curious, playful and informative research would be streamed online as monthly/yearly trends.
URL for Entry: www.publicdomaincity.com/british-library

Email: silvija.aurylaite@gmail.com

Twitter: @PubDomCity

Job Title: Curator, Historian, Art Director

Background of Submitter:

The idea is conceived by Silvija Aurylaite, former Volunteer Assistant at the British Library Labs in the summer of 2014. This has been the most inspiring time for her, which lead to the idea of Public Domain City - now the winner of Design Challenge (2015) by Europeana Creative.
Silvija is currently working with Open Digital Collections, which were released by the GLAMs around the world, to help the creative professionals find the content they are looking for. She does custom search and in the Autumn 2015 she will launch the first ‘Living Archive’ with a curated selection of images from various collections. Unlike traditional open collections, the Living Archive will not feature it’s own collection, but will be ‘shaped’ by the independent creatives. Thus the idea of the ‘Dream Image Archive’ is closely connected to the idea of Public Domain City.
www.publicdomaincity.com (coming soon)

Problem / Challenge Space:

Which historical image collections, published before 1870, are most valued by contemporary creatives and thus have the greatest potential to be reused for new thoughtful design works?
a) Which topics and types of images? Colours, objects or patterns, styles, authors or even periods?
b) Which design fields show the biggest interest (game, fashion?)
c) What kind of ideas/proposals the creatives have?
This is a unique project which researches the demand side for particular type of authentic historical images. It is a research, creative and entrepreneurial project at the same time. In the attempt to match the keywords of existing (digital) collections, and the current needs of independent designers, makers and young start-ups, it addresses two challenges:
1) To introduce the valuable historical image collections into the world of creative professionals and to highlight their strongest advantage points - authenticity, uniqueness and rarity (what none of online image stocks can offer).
b) To be useful for the British Library and other GLAMs in planning their digital strategy, thinking about new models of monetisation of digital content, and facilitating new best examples of re-use of open digital content.

Approach / Methodology:

1. Creation of the sample cloud of keywords from the metadata of the British Library’s Image Collections.
2. Building of a simple single page website on an open source platform WordPress.
3. Visualisation of newly collected data: highlighting the most wanted keywords, cities, creative fields and project ideas (with an artist/designer).

Extent of showcasing BL Digital Content:

‘Dream Image Archive’ is a playful open question which concerns all the historical illustrations from rare antique books and prints, originally published before 1870 (most likely now in public domain). They could be owned by the British Library or any other cultural institution; be digitised or awaiting digitisation.
The range of historical images includes: book illustrations, etchings, paintings, prints and sketches. Photography and photo-documentations of archival items are not included. The most popular archival curiosities are in the categories of Fauna, Flora, Anatomy, Architecture, Travel, Astronomy, Magic, Science, Medicine and Arts/Decorative.

Impact of Project:

A twofold impact will be made:
1) For the creative professionals:
It will draw their attention to the meaningful historical images, originally created by historical authors, as a great alternative to the traditional well established market dominants (image stocks). It will promote historical collections not just as a source for inspiration, but increasingly - with release of new open collections - as the working materials, which they could use in professional activities and the production of better culture.
2) For the British Library and other GLAMs:
It will highlight the type of images which receives most attention, and have a real potential to be re-used for new professional (representative) design works. This experiment could result in new offers/collaborations with design companies, and, potentially, new revenue streams. Also, the release of new open collections, grounded by already shown interest, will empower more independent design creative to use really valuable content for new best examples of use. For example, images could be used for illustrated books, which attend such prestigious annual contest as ‘ The Most Beautiful Books of the World’ at Leipzig Book Fair.

Issues / Challenges faced during project(s):

The ‘Dream Image Archive’ needs a broad reach to collect representative data, and for that purpose the partnership with the British Library is a great opportunity.
Although the main target group for this idea is creative professionals, and does not necessary overlap with online followers of the British Library, it is a greatly respected and trusted institution, what would help to promote historical collections in new creative areas.
The aim is to attract the attention of young independent design brands, start-ups, small creators and projects, respected design blogs and design events - to introduce rare historical image collections under their radars.