The Digital Public Library of America Launches

| April 19, 2013
(Covers to) A guide to New York City issued by New York Central Lines. (on verso) Rand McNally & Co., New York. (with map) The heart of New York Grand Central Terminal. Only railway station on the subway, elevated and surface lines. New York Central Lines. Copyright, by Rand, McNally & Co., 1918, New York & Chicago. (on verso) Map of the New York Central Lines ... The Matthews-Northrup Works, Buffalo, N.Y

(Covers to) A guide to New York City issued by New York Central Lines. (on verso) Rand McNally & Co., New York. (with map). Held by the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection.

The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) officially launched yesterday. Serving as a central portal for digital resources, the DPLA aims to bring openly available digital materials from American libraries, archives, and museums  to anyone with an internet connection.

Practically all formats of resources discoverable through the DPLA, including manuscripts, photographs, 3D objects, audio, video, and books. As a whole, the site offers easy access to rich resources that may otherwise be difficult to discover.

These items can be searched via a single-search, and results can be viewed not only as a list of relevant items, but also geographically and chronologically. See for example the items on the Brooklyn Bridge according to relevance, geography, and date. As you would expect, most of the items on the Brooklyn Bridge come from New York, but the geography of items on, say, ice cream are far more disperse, covering creameries in Minnesota to a photograph of three young Japanese women eating ice cream cones outside of a California relocation center circa 1941-1943.

A few other fun objects include Abraham Lincoln’s watchThe writings of George Washington from the original manuscript sources, 1745-1799; prepared under the direction of the United States George Washington Bicentennial Commission and published by authority of Congress, v. 5 (provided by the Internet Archive), and the diverse result list for searching Harlem, including census records, homecoming programs, and a poster from the Dance Theater of Harlem.

A collaborative initiative, the DPLA was built using the expertise of research librarians, technology specialists, digital humanists, legal advisers, and educators from across the country.

The idea to build a central portal for digital resources reaches back to the 1990s. The push to get DPLA off the ground started in 2010 at a meeting held at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society and was supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Admirable information professionals that they are, those who planned the DPLA collected their workshop and meeting notes and make these publicly available via the  DPLA Historical Materials.

The DPLA can be seen in the larger context of other initiatives that bring together digital objects and metadata on cultural history, such as Europeana, which brings together items from across the European continent (and is connected to DPLA as well!), and the ongoing work at the Library of Congress to provide access to their digital materials via their many digital collections.

For more coverage of DPLA, check out the message written by Executive Director Dan Cohen for the launch as well as coverage by Library Journal.