Since September 2012, I’ve been running a successful historic image segment on the Redland City Council Facebook page called #FlashbackFriday. The basic premise is that we post a historic image every Friday and play a guessing game with people – where and when was the photo taken?

Here is a step-by-step guide on the why, what and how of using historic images in social media.

Benefits of using historic images in social media

So why bother posting historic images on your organisation’s social media channels? Here’s a few good reasons.

Historic images bring people to your page

Quite often when we post a  #FlashbackFriday image, the numbers of likers of our Facebook page increases as people share the image and mention their friends or family in comments. Bigger audiences open up new opportunities for you to communicate and engage with your community on a whole range of issues.

Historic images get people talking

Historic images always get people talking. One of the most satisfying things as a Facebook page manager is watching the comments roll in as people share memories about the places we feature in this segment.

For example, when we posted the image below, we asked people to guess the year this photo was taken and where in the Redlands it was. Many people knew straight away it was Kratzman’s Store at Wellington Point and posted memories of buying lollies and ice creams there when they were children. The Kratzman’s granddaughter saw the post and shared her memories about her grandparent’s wonderful store.


Historic images can spark debate

Historic images can spark debate. The image below of the Paxton Street pier at Cleveland fooled a lot of people initially who thought it was the pier at Wellington Point. Why? Because there hasn’t been a jetty in Cleveland since 1991, when the Paxton Street pier was pulled down due to safety concerns.

Many people commented that Cleveland should have a pier again. The next week our local paper, the Bayside Bulletin, ran a campaign to bring a jetty back to Cleveland. I’ve since heard the timing was coincidental, but either way, historic images can be used as a conversation piece to spark debate about the future of your community.


Historic images showcase our role

Some people in the community are unaware of the role that local government plays in local history. Reminding them through greater exposure to historic images renews interest and showcases our role as custodians of local history.

Sourcing historic images

Where do you find historic images for your town or region? Try the following.

Local history library

Your first port of call for sourcing historic images should the local history centre or local history library in your town. Often run by councils, local history libraries have large digitised archives at their disposal. Local history librarians are very knowledgeable and can help you if you are looking for a particular type of image.

If you don’t have a local history library in your town, try approaching your local history society or museum.

Regional or national archives

Regional and national archives are a great place to search for historic images. Many organisations have posted vast collections of images and other resources online.

In Queensland we are lucky to have a fantastic collection made available to us on the Flickr Commons by the State Library Queensland (SLQ).

The Flickr Commons feature historic photos from organisations around the World. All of the images on Flickr Commons have “no known copyright restrictions“, making them perfect to use on social media.

SLQ’s collection is brilliantly categorised into sets on topics as diverse as 1920s fashionTea time and even moustaches.

Australian photo collections on the Flickr Commons

Participating institutions include:

Other state historic photo collections online

Other Australian states have digital archives of historic images, but you will need to check with them to determine what usage, if any, is permitted:


The National Library of Australia runs the excellent Trove website – a digital archive of millions of books, images, historic newspapers, maps and music archives.

As with the collections above, you will need to carefully check each resource for what usage, if any, is permitted. Get in touch with them if you are unsure.

Australian Emergency Management Knowledge Hub

The Australian Emergency Management Knowledge Hub  is a fantastic resource and features statistics, information, photos, video and media about post disasters.

Local newspapers

Local newspapers often have an archive or historic images. Many of the images in our local history collection in the Redlands were donated by our local paper The Bayside Bulletin / The Redland Times. Similar collections of historic photos may lie in the vaults of  your local paper.

Crowdsource images

Another way to source historic images is by crowdsourcing them. Ask your followers on social media to send in any historic images from those dusty shoe boxes in their garage.

Using historic images in social media

How do we use historic images on social media? Here are some ideas.

Play a guessing game

This is the most popular approach we take when using historic images. Get people involved by asking them to guess the year and the location of photo. Quite often people will accurately date the photo because they know the make and model of a car in the background!

Depending on the photo, you can ask all sorts of questions. For the image below, we asked people to guess the lady’s profession – the answers were very interesting to say the least! Can you guess?


Tie historic images to current events

Some of the events we’ve tied our #FlashbackFriday posts have been:

  • Anzac Day historic photo album (this post was a little different – we used an album and posted the images on Anzac Day itself, which was a Thursday in 2013)
  • School holidays
  • Local events such as the Inter-island tug of war (the two teams competing in this tug of war are actually on different islands – Lamb and Macleay)
  • Cricket season

Use images of places people can relate to from their childhood

One of the most popular photos I’ve ever posted in terms of likes, shares and comments was actually one of the less remarkable photos.

One Friday afternoon I posted a photo of the Alexandra Hills Shopping Centre under construction (below) not believing that we would have much of a reaction.

How wrong could I be, the response over the next couple of hours was amazing. The post ended up with 142 likes, 55 comments and 40 shares.


As with the image of Kratzman’s store, the reason this image was so popular was because it  brought back lots of memories for our Facebook likers, many of whom were children when the shopping centre was first opened.

#FlashbackFriday is not just about photos

Other historic archives we’ve posted in the past include newspaper ads for real estate, groceries and cars. People always get a kick out of seeing ads with single digit phone numbers!


Some final tips

Use the knowledge of your local history librarian

Local history librarians are a wealth of knowledge and can help you if you’re looking for a particular type of image.

Be aware of sensitive local issues

Every community has issues that remain sensitive for decades – be careful if you decide to post any historic photo or newspaper article related to such an issue.

Check copyright

As stated above, if you find an image in an online collection you’d like to use – make sure you read and understand the terms of use and the copyright information for that image. It’s always a good idea to follow this up with a courtesy call or email to the organisation to double check you can use the image.

Credit your source

It’s always best practice to credit the source of your historic image  – even if no known copyright restrictions exist.

Give people enough time to answer

Often we will get the correct answer to a #FlashbackFriday post within minutes, but we leave posting the correct answer until the next morning so other users can have a guess too.

Do you use historic images on your social media?

If so, let us know!

Images courtesy of the Redland City Council Local History Library / The Bayside Bulletin / The Redland Times.

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