Black and white photo of Greek locals dancing outside in traditional dress circa 1900.

Woodhouse Archive Flickr Project

Help us catalogue an inspiring photographic collection
A community project to document more than 1800 glass-plate negatives taken in Greece during the 1890s and early 1900s.

In July 2017 we launched a new crowd sourcing project to help us identify and catalogue the Woodhouse Photographic Archive. Using Flickr, contributors have been asked to leave comments detailing where the image may have been taken, a description of the image and tags to connect the archive with the places and people pictured. The archive has received over 700 comments and tags from contributors around the globe. But the work continues!

Head over to our Flickr site to help us catalogue the Woodhouse photographic collection.

About the archive

The Nicholson Collection holds more than 1800 glass-plate negatives taken by former curator William J Woodhouse primarily in Greece between 1890 and 1935. A small portion of the archive also includes photographs of his family in the Blue Mountains and Sydney region, NSW, Australia. They were donated to the Nicholson Museum in 1984 by Liska Woodhouse, William J Woodhouse’s daughter.

The collection documents important archaeological sites, significant landscapes of the Greek mainland, religious architecture, contemporary street scenes and village life he encountered during his research trips across the mainland. Portraits of his companions, including family members and guides he employed, are also to be found creating a rich personal account of Greece during this period.

A small selection of Woodhouse’s photographs were published in his work Aetolia: its geography, topography, and antiquities, in 1897. This was the first significant survey of the Aetolian region, recording monuments, historical landscapes and archaeological finds. As Woodhouse articulated in his introduction "History only attains its full value by borrowing actuality from geography and topography" and his early photography was a means through which to study the landscapes and was a key teaching tool when he was appointed to the Chair of Greek at the University of Sydney.

Since releasing the archive on Flickr, key photographs have been identified by specialists working across different areas of Greek heritage and culture as some of the earliest photographic documentation of places in public knowledge or as a different perspective of sites filling previous gaps in knowledge. Publication of select images have now appeared in scientific journal articles, museum publications, local heritage books, and have been shared with the communities which they represent. The entire archive is in the public domain allowing for free publication and sharing of content.

Contribute to the project

You can still contribute to our documentation of this collection and assist us with the identification of the hundreds of different monuments and places in Greece.

To become a contributor all you need to do is head over to our Flickr page and find an image you’d like to write about. To leave a comment you will need to create a Flickr user ID, this is also how we will attribute your work. Once logged in you can begin adding tags and comments on any image.

We are asking contributors to address the following questions:

  • What do you see? Write a brief description of this image.
  • Where was this photograph taken?
  • Can you find the geocoordinates (latitude and longitude) of this exact place? Let us know by linking to Google Maps or add the coordinates in your comment.
  • Do you know what year this photograph was taken?

All of our Flickr contributors will be acknowledged for their involvement in our documentation processes and acknowledged in our online collection catalogue.

To reference or find an image again, each of our images are titled with their registration number following this formula NM2007.##.##

Our verification and documentation processes

Flickr notifies us of all new activity on the site, including comments, tags, favourites and followers. Our volunteers, interns and curators read through and record all contributions and then verify crowd-sourced content. This can be done in several ways:

  • Self-verification:  a contributor includes references, further images or geo-coordinates that confirm the information submitted.
  • Community verification: another contributor adds further information or references to verify an existing comment, or adds new knowledge to the image.
  • Research verification: a member of our Museum team seeks external references to verify the content provided by the community. This could be looking for similar images with clear attribution details, using satellite imagery to match locations, finding archival sources to confirm suspected place names or content, or seeking specialist advice on particular locations or historic monuments.

Once an image has been commented on all contributions are archived in the Museum’s database, including the Flickr contributor’s ID and/or name as provided. Verified images will note the method of verification and all references used in the process. Descriptions and tags added by our contributors are also added to the  database, with full attribution to the contributor.

Research outcomes and future directions

The Woodhouse Archive Flickr Project has been an ongoing case-study for the value of community participation in the documentation of historic photography collections and is part of a larger conversation in museology of the ways in which digital technologies and web platforms can be used by museums to further collection reach and connect with community beyond the walls of the institution. Initial results of this case study have been presented as the following:

  • C. Richards, (2023). 'Unexpected legacies: The collections of classicist William J. Woodhouse (1866–1937), then and now’ Journal of the History of Collections.
  • S. Judd, 'Transformation and Loss in the Woodhouse Photographic Archive' Australasian Society for Classical Studies 42, The University of Tasmania, 8-11 February 2022.
  • C. Richards, ‘Documenting the Woodhouse Photographic Archive: Curating crowdsourced knowledge’ Digital Humanities Australasia 4, The University of South Australia, 25-28 Sept 2018.
  • C. Richards, ‘In the footsteps of Woodhouse: Reframing the historic photographic archive of William J Woodhouse and exploring new methods for its documentation’ Australasian Society for Classical Studies Conference 39, The University of Queensland, 30 Jan – 2 Feb 2018.

Further publication is currently underway to articulate the methodologies employed for the management of the project and the benefits this approach has, not just for the collection’s documentation, but within engaged communities beyond the initial intended outcomes.

See the Woodhouse Archive

A selection of images from the Woodhouse Archive are displayed in the current exhibition Impressions of Greece. Future installations will feature new images paired with artefacts and artworks from the collection that reveal the connections between ancient and modern Greece, and reflect upon the legacies of Greek culture in modern society.

Featured image (top of the page): [dancing on the pnyx], Athens, Greece 1890–1935, photograph: WJ Woodhouse