DPLA: A Digital Library for the Present

I originally wrote that DPLA would be a digital library for the future, but it’s more accurately the present, or even a delayed present. Europe has had its own overarchingly accessible online library collection, Europeana, since 2008. DPLA is a fledgling effort, yet to be bolstered by many of the collections across America (most notably the Library of Congress) but it is a work in progress. The beta version of DPLA launched today, with a press release sent out to interested people across the country, available here. Professed within is:

“The DPLA’s goal is to bring the entire nation’s rich cultural collections off the shelves and into the innovative environment of the Internet for people to discover, download, remix, reuse and build on in ways we haven’t yet begun to imagine,” said Maura Marx, Director of the DPLA Secretariat. “Regular users can search in the traditional way using the portal, and developers and innovators can build on big chunks of code and content using the platform—we’re creating access, not controlling it.”

By creating a remixable and accessible online community, the DPLA brings one of the most venerable community institutions wholly online.  They’ve created a developer API for the available resources, meant to engineer and enhance discovery of the resources typically buried deep in library stacks or back rooms, and geographically unavailable to a large percentage of English-speaking users. Also from the press release, a selection of available works:

“Among the 2.4 million records available at launch, you will find gems that include daguerreotypes of former Presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, images of women marching for the vote in Kentucky, news film clips of the Freedom Riders during the Civil Rights movement, The Book of Hours, an illuminated manuscript from 1514, Notes on the State of Virginia, written by Thomas Jefferson, and paintings by Winslow Homer,” said Emily Gore, DPLA Director for Content."

Resources such as these could be used to enhance otherwise mundane lesson plans, or allow history students to pursue primary-source work even earlier in their studies. An online monument to America’s cultural heritage and holdings, the DPLA can give a voice to otherwise buried moments of history.