photo roulette
February 3, 2018 12:30 PM   Subscribe

Guess the year of a Library of Congress image in Photo Roulette!

You have ten tries for each image. Created by Laura Wrubel, Software development librarian at GWU.
posted by oneirodynia (35 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
I got one from 1937 on my first guess and now it thinks I'm cheating, like maybe I was trying to hustle it by losing a few plays.
posted by klausman at 12:40 PM on February 3, 2018


I am getting these after suspiciously few attempts.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:40 PM on February 3, 2018


Okay, and now it took me eight tries. Stupid old-looking bench photographed four years ago.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:42 PM on February 3, 2018


This was fun! (Why is it suspicious? Seems random to me.)
posted by jeremias at 12:42 PM on February 3, 2018


Hey, I'm pretty good at these. As long as they're black and white.
posted by Splunge at 12:42 PM on February 3, 2018


I got one from 1937 on my first guess and now it thinks I'm cheating, like maybe I was trying to hustle it by losing a few plays.

Same here, picked 1942 for one as it was clearly WWII related, so very much an "educated" guess and so it thinks I'm cheating? Sheesh.
posted by vac2003 at 12:55 PM on February 3, 2018


This is really fun! I'm really proud because I just got a photo from the 30s by guessing (correctly, as it turns out) that it was taken as part of the WPA slave narrative project.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 12:56 PM on February 3, 2018


It's great looking for clues in obsolete technology and outdated fashion, and very satisfying when historical subjects come up but all these Civil War uniforms are making it far too easy.
posted by Elizabeth the Thirteenth at 12:57 PM on February 3, 2018 [1 favorite]


I’m pretty much nailing the decade but then playing whack a mole for the actual date
posted by not_the_water at 12:58 PM on February 3, 2018 [4 favorites]


I took me 3 guesses. It was a photo of an unimpressed woman baking from 1994. I first guessed 2002 because who knows with today's fake instagram vintage sepia photo layers.
posted by Fizz at 1:05 PM on February 3, 2018


I am obsessed! Bookmarking for when I need a fun time-waster or the next boring meeting.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 1:11 PM on February 3, 2018




Created by Laura Wrubel, Software development librarian at GWU.

Although, as the caption says, it's a remix of Tim Sherratt's Trove Headline Roulette.
posted by zamboni at 1:54 PM on February 3, 2018 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure all of them are working correctly. I entered, say, "2011" and was told "It's later." I tried "2012" and got "It's earlier". Not playing any further, thanks.

I'd be willing to go back to it if they change it to one or two guesses, and then they just tell you what the Very Interesting Thing is.
posted by Weftage at 1:55 PM on February 3, 2018


Fun! The only one I was able to get on the first try was a black & white picture of a street in San Francisco; the street was covered in rubble and there was a collapsed building on one side. And thankfully I could remember the date of the Great Earthquake off the top of my head.
posted by Johnny Assay at 2:19 PM on February 3, 2018


There ideas of "quite a bit" and "a little bit" don't exactly jibe with mine, but it's still a fun way to browse random photos while learning little nuggets.
posted by Devils Rancher at 2:20 PM on February 3, 2018


Captain Lewis shooting an Indian

1. It's an engraving & not a photograph.
2. 1493-1890, anywhere in there.
posted by Devils Rancher at 2:24 PM on February 3, 2018


A photograph of an engraving?
posted by sammyo at 2:27 PM on February 3, 2018 [1 favorite]


A photograph of an engraving?

Supposedly the correct date was 1810. I figured it was Meriwether Lewis, so I started in 1803, though I don't recall them actually shooting any Indians in their account of the "discovery" of the upper Missouri & PNW.

The first known photograph was taken in 1826? Don't know who photographed the engraving - I was too pissed by the title to click through.
posted by Devils Rancher at 2:33 PM on February 3, 2018


I got a photo that claimed to be from 1781. Since there wasn't any sort of practical long lasting photography process introduced until the 1800's I find it doubtful that the photo is actually from 1781. I was still able to "guess" the right year within 10 tries based on the messages on the site though.

The engraving depicted in the photo is from 1781, but I was asked to guess the date of the photo, not the date of the subject of the photo. An engraving is not a photo. A photograph of an engraving is not an engraving.

If they wanted to create a site where you guess the creation date of a work, they should have said that instead of claiming a photo was taken before the invention of photography.
posted by yohko at 2:34 PM on February 3, 2018


And supposedly this color photograph was from 1881.

Wow, they sure had impressive color photography for 1881 over in the Library of Congress!

Look, if you are asking people to guess the date of a photo, the "date" of the photo should be some time after that particular photographic process was invented.
posted by yohko at 2:41 PM on February 3, 2018 [1 favorite]


I am getting these after suspiciously few attempts.

My first photo was black-and-white: a bunch of concerned men in Depression-era business wear sitting at a table, having a meeting.

My second photo was a colour shot of some rocks on a beach.

The third was also in colour: courtroom, empty of people.

They all took me four or five guesses. The hints are a little too revealing, I think.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 3:01 PM on February 3, 2018


Weirdly, the second one was of a place quite near where I live. The third was a place I used to go past when I was a child. I think this program is trying to guess my location.

(I'll be hiding near the Civil War if you need me for anything....)
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:41 PM on February 3, 2018


I think the problem is the Library of Congress doesn't have a single "photo" category. The app pulls from https://www.loc.gov/photos/ but that category includes "Photos, Prints, and Drawings." The date is then pulled from whatever the Library of Congress has, and usually LOC puts the date of the print, not when they took a photo of it for their digital collection. So yeah, flawed, but it's still fun.
posted by brook horse at 3:45 PM on February 3, 2018


I got my first direct hit with this caption: Petersburg, Virginia. Confederate fortifications on the outer line captured by the 18th Corps, June 15, ****. Kind of a give-away on that one...
posted by miguelcervantes at 6:06 PM on February 3, 2018


I played this for way longer than I'd like to admit, and actually started to get pretty good at it. Dare I say I have a system now? But what struck me was the distinct dearth of photos from the 1950's and 60's. I feel that I played long enough to get a really decent sample set, and did not have a single photo from the 50's and only a couple from the 60's. It just seemed odd.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 6:14 PM on February 3, 2018


This was fun, but I wish the captions would appear after you got it.
posted by Gotanda at 6:23 PM on February 3, 2018 [1 favorite]


Fun. Trying to tell interbellum uniforms from WWII uniforms. Some of the modern shots are embarrassing though ... barrel distortion, washed-out reds, smearing from long exposure times and wind movement ...
posted by labberdasher at 3:58 AM on February 4, 2018


Look, if you are asking people to guess the date of a photo, the "date" of the photo should be some time after that particular photographic process was invented.

If you read the description of the item, it says that this is a "print". There's been a debates for years, probably decades, about what type of media to label such a thing. My team and the catalogers from the Prints and Photographs division agreed to group all of that under Photos, Prints, and Drawings. Scans and photos of such media are all under that umbrella. This project clearly is just taking things from that section of the site, which is fine, but the caveat is that there are plenty of things in there that are photos of an old thing.

Some of these are easier than others

The site is taking the "title" of the items as the caption. So this is just one long ass title. We make fun of these every time they pop up, I gotta send this one to my team! Gotta love the catalogers.
posted by numaner at 10:08 AM on February 4, 2018 [1 favorite]


Thanks for giving the game a try and all of the useful suggestions. I tightened up the date prompts a little and have added code to try to identify images that are not photos. Basically, I have to search the description field for any words in the description that are for prints (lithograph, engraving, etching, etc) or drawings. Open to ideas to better target photographs.

If you're interested in looking under the hood, the code is public at: https://glitch.com/edit/#!/loc-photo-roulette
Most of the logic is in public/app.js.
posted by liblaura at 3:24 PM on February 4, 2018 [6 favorites]


Thanks liblaura!
posted by yohko at 9:10 PM on February 4, 2018


Open to ideas to better target photographs.

You can try pulling the "medium" field from the api, which P&P is pretty good at keeping consistent. This is the json api for the print mentioned above, the "medium" for it contains 'print', it should also have the others (lithograph, engraving, etc) as appropriate. Hope that helps!
posted by numaner at 10:49 AM on February 5, 2018


You can try pulling the "medium" field from the api

That does look like a useful field. Thank you for digging that up and the link. The app currently works with the limited set of fields that's in the "results" section of a page's list of results (example). As far as I can see, medium is only available in the item's JSON.

However, it looks like the description field has the medium + item-level "summary". So if I rely on the relevant words being in the description field (which is available in results) then I think it works? Thanks for letting me know that data is pretty reliable.
posted by liblaura at 11:31 AM on February 5, 2018


ahh good point, I was too focused on looking at different items. and yes the search summary is composed as you say. can't wait to try the updated version!
posted by numaner at 12:00 PM on February 5, 2018


If they wanted to create a site where you guess the creation date of a work, they should have said that instead of claiming a photo was taken before the invention of photography.
I believe you are entitled to a full refund.

I thought it was interesting, and I did a couple dozen of them, skipping the pure landscapes. The Civil War uniforms span at least 1861 through 1910, based on the ones I saw.
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 7:14 PM on February 5, 2018


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