I checked out the Flickr blog today and was very excited to see that the Center for Jewish History in New York has recently joined the Flickr Commons. This means that the Center for Jewish History is starting to make parts of its collection easily accessible online, so not only can people make use of its public-domain material, they can also help identify the individuals pictured in the photographs.
The photos from the Center for Jewish History include, among other things, images of Passover meals, weddings and other celebrations; pictures of basketball teams and bowlers; and poignant views of unidentified orphans, soldiers in WWI and WWII, and synagogues destroyed during Kristallnacht.
Some of the images in this collection which particularly thrill me are lithographs made by Hugo Steiner-Prag in 1916 to accompany the novel The Golem by Gustav Meyrink. Of all the books I had to read in college, The Golem was perhaps my favorite, and it sticks in my mind to this day as an unsettling and evocative tale of 19th-century Prague. My version of the book is illustrated with Steiner-Prag’s darkly compelling lithographs, which bring Meyrink’s hallucinatory story to life. Seeing the lithographs online has prompted me to dig out my copy of The Golem for another quick read.
Incidentally, you can view all of the Golem lithographs on the website of the Center for Jewish History (along with many, many other documents), and the full (German) text of Der Golem is available online too.