The Powerhouse Museum in Sydney made a fabulous announcement the other day – they have joined with the Commons on Flickr project as the first museum in the world to release publicly-held historical photographs for access on Flickr. PHM joins the US Library of Congress, the world’s largest photo library, which released its first images for public access in January this year.

An initial 200 black and white images from the Powerhouse’s Tyrrell Collection of Sydney life in the late 1800s and early 1900s were made available last Tuesday, with 50 more added since then.

The really exciting thing about this initiative is that the images are designated ‘no known copyright restrictions’, a new label for Flickr created specifically for this project. This means that the photographs are able to be re-used however you like, without any limitations or fear of copyright infringement – for commercial purposes, as part of a remix work etc. You don’t even need to attribute (though it’s still polite to).

This is one of the most publicised efforts by an Australian archival institution to release material in their collection that has fallen into the public domain for free re-use by the general public. And apparently it’s been a roaring success. According to this blog post by PHM staffer Seb Chan, they’ve had over 20,000 views int he frst week, and hundreds of tags have been added.

And to further encourage public interaction with their collection, the PHM also publishes select images from its Photo of the Day blog under Creative Commons.