Yesterday the much-heralded Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) finally went live. While it took nearly three years of planning, DPLA executive director Dan Cohen, interviewed in The Atlantic for the launch, insisted:
The idea behind the Digital Public Library of America is fairly simple actually — it is the attempt, really a large-scale attempt, to knit together America’s archives, libraries, and museums, which have a tremendous amount of content — all forms of human expression, from images and photographs, to artwork, to published material and unpublished material, like archival and special collections. We want to bring that all together in one place….
It very much has that spirit of the public library. We want to make the maximal amount of content available in a maximally open way.
Right now DPLA links to over two million sources held at archives, libraries, and museums. (It doesn’t host items itself, but provides metadata that makes searching easier.) It’s probably best just to dive in and see what you find. Indeed, Cohen hoped that there “will be a real element of discovery — both directed discovery and also coming across new things through serendipity, things you might not encounter otherwise.”
But if you’re looking for some places to start…
- The “Exhibitions” page currently spotlights a few themes from U.S. history, including activism, the Great Depression and New Deal, the National Parks Service, Prohibition, and the Native American experience in 19th century Minnesota.
- Browse by place (Minnesota accounts for about 31,000 records by itself) and year or decade
The DPLA is also meant to facilitate the work of software engineers and researchers by providing open data and an app library. (The first two apps posted very much fit with the “discovery” theme, as they’re meant to help you explore the DPLA.)