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The BPL has posted 8,000 photos from its collection to Wikimedia Commons

Artist's plaster model of the Boston Public Library's McKim Building, circa 1890
Artist's plaster model of the Boston Public Library's McKim Building, circa 1890Boston Public Library

The Boston Public Library has some 23.7 million items in its collection. Most are books, but there are also manuscripts, maps, musical scores, prints, postcards, and photographs. The photographic holdings are extensive. That’s appropriate, since the library’s motto, “Omnium Lux Civium,” means “The Light of All People,” and photography means “writing with light.”

A distinctive Boston sign, circa 1940.
A distinctive Boston sign, circa 1940.Boston Public Library

In honor of Wikipedia’s 20th anniversary, which was Jan. 15, the BPL has uploaded 8,000 photographs from its collection to Wikimedia Commons. The commons is Wikipedia’s site for free-use images and other media resources.

To view the images go to commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Media_contributed_by_Boston_Public_Library

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The Boston-based Digital Public Library of America is overseeing a larger program, of which the BPL upload is a part, for easier online access to archival sources in US libraries and museums.

Bates Hall windows during construction of the BPL's McKim Building, 1890.
Bates Hall windows during construction of the BPL's McKim Building, 1890.Boston Public Library

As one might expect, many of the photos relate to Greater Boston: the Paul Revere House, a selection of Cambridge churches, the Arboretum. Fittingly, a large number document the construction of what is now the McKim Building, the older of the two buildings that make up the Copley Square main library.

A pass for the 1916 World Series.
A pass for the 1916 World Series.Boston Public Library

A batch of photos record Boston baseball from the early years of the 20th century.

Leon H. Abdalian's "Cherry tree in blossom, 86 Arborway," 1951.
Leon H. Abdalian's "Cherry tree in blossom, 86 Arborway," 1951.Leon H. Abdalian/Boston Public Library

The upload includes hundreds of pictures taken by Jamaica Plain photographer Leon H. Abdalian (1884-1967). They range from weddings and social gatherings to architectural studies to a particularly graceful image of a cherry tree in blossom by the Arborway.

Plate 169 from Eadweard Muybridge's "Animal Locomotion," 1887 edition.
Plate 169 from Eadweard Muybridge's "Animal Locomotion," 1887 edition.Boston Public Library

There are even some famous images, including scores of plates from Eadweard Muybridge’s “Animal Locomotion” studies.

The collection isn’t limited to local subjects. It includes carte-de-visite photographs of Civil War soldiers, 19th-century portraits of Native Americans, images from a scrapbook devoted to Belgian cities (yes, Belgian), and numerous view of Stratford-upon-Avon.

Leon H. Abdalian's "Frank J. Mello Fuel Company, 221 High Street, Boston," 1951
Leon H. Abdalian's "Frank J. Mello Fuel Company, 221 High Street, Boston," 1951Leon H. Abdalian/Boston Public Library

Still, it’s photos from close to home — a car crash in Dedham; views of the chockablock interior of Bob’s Spa (or “Spy,” as a cataloguer recorded it), in Jamaica Plain; or a rather noble-looking tanker truck, owned by Mello Fuel Company. Abdalian took both the Bob’s photos and the one of the truck. Clearly, he got around. Imagine how much further he could have gotten with the Web to work with.

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The BPL says that it plans further Wikimedia Commons uploads this year, featuring maps, manuscripts, illustrations, and more photographs.



Mark Feeney can be reached at mark.feeney@globe.com.