The Digital Public Library of America has launched!

By April 18, 2013

dplaThe Digital Public Library of America, a project that has been in development for a few years, is now live on the Internet. The DPLA follows in the footsteps of Europeana, a similar initiative in the EU that brings together diverse collections throughout the European Union’s libraries, archives, and museums. One way of thinking about the DPLA is to see it as a super-catalog of materials spread across the contiguous United States in thousands of local, state, and federal institutions. The current “beta” version of the site already has 2+ million records aggregated from “hubs” such as the Digital Library of Georgia, Kentucky Digital Library, Minnesota Digital Library, ArtStor, Biodiversity Heritage Library, National Archives and Records Administration, New York Public Library, University of Virginia,  Mountain West Digital Library, etc. Additional partners are being announced almost daily. So pump yourself up and get searching!

Here are some fun sample queries for you, relevant to our purposes:

The search interface also allows you to display your search results on a map to see where resources originate from:

Or there’s a really great timeline view as well:

Let’s use this post to discuss any discoveries you make about the platform or the kinds of content that’s available. Wahoo!

Also, here’s a great snippet about the history of the DPLA:

The vision of a national digital library has been circulating among librarians, scholars, educators, and private industry representatives since the early 1990s. Efforts led by a range of organizations, including the Library of CongressHathiTrust, and the Internet Archive, have successfully built resources that provide books, images, historic records, and audiovisual materials to anyone with Internet access. Many universities, public libraries, and other public-spirited organizations have digitized materials, but these digital collections often exist in silos. The DPLA  brings these different viewpoints, experiences, and collections together in a single platform and portal, providing open and coherent access to our society?s digitized cultural heritage.

The DPLA planning process began in October 2010 at a meeting in Cambridge, MA. During this meeting, 40 leaders from libraries, foundations, academia, and technology projects agreed to work together to create ?an open, distributed network of comprehensive online resources that would draw on the nation?s living heritage from libraries, universities, archives, and museums in order to educate, inform, and empower everyone in current and future ­generations.?

In December 2010, the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, generously supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, convened leading experts in libraries, technology, law, and education to begin work on this ambitious project. A two-year process of intense grassroots community organization, beginning in October 2011 and hosted at the Berkman Center, brought together hundreds of public and research librarians, innovators, digital humanists, and other volunteers?organized into six workstreams and led by a distinguished Steering Committee?helped to scope, design, and construct the DPLA.

The DPLA is led now by Executive Director Dan Cohen and guided by a Board of Directors comprised of leading public and research librarians, technologists, intellectual property scholars, and business experts from around the country.

To view materials produced during the planning initiative, visit our Historical Materials page.

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention: the URL for the DPLA is dead simple:


Article filed under Announcements and Events Digital Humanities


  1. Also checkout this great app for browsing the DPLA by the metaLAB at Harvard:

    Comment by Tod R. — April 18, 2013 @ 12:07 pm

  2. This is fantastic. I was sorry to see the Boston festivities cancelled because of the ongoing investigation and security concerns in Copley Square, but so, so happy this is up and running & look forward to great things from it and for it. If you want thoughtful commentary on all things techie-academic-publishing, by the way, check out the archives of Dan Cohen & crew’s podcast during his time at George Mason,

    Comment by Tona H — April 18, 2013 @ 12:41 pm

  3. It seems like the search feature isn’t very…tunable. Is that the way things are trending?

    Comment by J. Stapley — April 18, 2013 @ 2:01 pm

  4. @Tona thanks!

    @J. I don’t think it’s trending that way, this is just the beta version of the platform. The search does already include facets and the ability to filter results by format, owning institution, by language, by date, by location, or by subject.

    It is true they haven’t listed the search operators anywhere I can find, but I believe they mentioned the typical use of OR and AND operators on the dev list I’ve been following.

    I’m curious what you mean by tunable.

    Comment by Tod R. — April 18, 2013 @ 3:40 pm

  5. Tod, it doesn’t appear to me that you can search within texts of materials that are digitized. As I see it in my limited use, it seems like it is just the finding aids.

    Comment by J. Stapley — April 19, 2013 @ 11:53 am

  6. Using this, I found a photo of the Salt Lake Temple Celestial Room. Above the veil is a statue of the virgin Mary.

    Comment by kramer — April 20, 2013 @ 6:55 am

  7. That figure is still there, but the seating configuration is quite different.

    The use of the Virgin Mary in Mormon art has been discussed a number of times in the Bloggernacle, including here:

    Comment by Amy T — April 20, 2013 @ 8:33 am

  8. And here, by Kris Wright:

    Comment by Amy T — April 20, 2013 @ 8:34 am

  9. It isn’t certain if it is a Madonna, actually. I asked Probert about it in his MHA Session on the decoration of the SLC Temple interior, and he mentioned the shell motif, which was often associated with Venus, but that it was likely best contextualized by the portraiture and statues of women at other churches. Fascinating stuff that.

    Comment by J. Stapley — April 20, 2013 @ 12:56 pm

  10. So I can find all sorts of photos, but can’t seem to access any of them–view object doesn’t work. Any suggestions?
    I can access the records, but not the objects themselves.

    Comment by jjohnson — April 22, 2013 @ 11:08 am

  11. Did you figure that out, jjohnson? It could be your browser — Chrome tends to work when other browsers, including Firefox, don’t for some of these digital resources.

    Comment by Amy T — April 22, 2013 @ 4:23 pm


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