Powerhouse Mechanic
“Power House Mechanic” (1920) by Lewis Hine

The New York Times story on, a collaboration between the George Eastman House and International Center of Photography Alliance. (The site is currently overwhelmed, but they’ve got a sampler up at the moment.) From the article:

While there are now dozens of growing digital databases of photography on the Web, many – like Corbis and Getty Images – are commercial sites that do not allow the public unfettered access to their collections. The Photomuse site will join others, like the digital collections of the Library of Congress, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television in Bradford, England, that are beginning to create what amounts to a huge, free, virtual photography museum on the Web.

Anthony Bannon, the director of Eastman House, said one of the biggest hurdles encountered by the project – after overcoming the initial cultural resistance of both institutions to share their collections and expertise – has been converting the images of both Eastman and the center. onto a single computer system. (So far, he said, Eastman has digitized almost 140,000 of its photos and center about 30,000.)

“It’s not just like pushing a button and the images slide over,” he said, adding that copyright issues with many photographers could also keep many images off the Web for years. “Some are generous and understand the positive result by having the images seen on our Web site but others are worried about losing opportunities for revenue,” Mr. Bannon said. “All of us are still learning about how the Web can be used, I think.”

It’s nice to see traditionally conservative institutions opening up to the idea that on the Web, sharing your art, knowledge or expertise freely often pays you back far better than hording it.