August 26, 2014

Links, Web Gems & Other Digital Delights: Digital Public Library of America

A fantastic website with Digital Wealth of Knowledge where you can explore 7,675,354 items from libraries, archives, and museums across the United States.

The Digital Public Library of America
Modeled on the greatness that is the Europeana library, the DPLA collects more than seven million objects from museums, historical archives, universities and libraries across the country. The focus is American cultural history as reflected in photographs, manuscripts, letters, maps, artifacts, books, audio, films and more, all drawn from contributing institutions like the Smithsonian, the National Archives, the New York Public Library, Harvard University, the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection and the University of Virginia. The DPLA conveniently collates material already online — things you could find if you searched the websites of those institutions individually — but it also includes items that have been digitized but were isolated on local computer systems.

The library’s goal is to be a history-targeted Google, a vast repository of historical information that is open to the public and fully searchable. It has none the barriers that keep certain institutional sites from being included in Google search results, and unlike Wikipedia, its contents are mainly primary sources. The hope is that it will prove itself to be an invaluable tool for research, where students, teachers, scholars, journalists and happy nerds in general can get information from the horse’s mouth instead of via layers of edited composition. You can search by keyword, or browse by subject, and if you register for an account, you can save your searches, individual items and exhibitions and make shareable playlists out of them.

The contents are not exclusively American since many of the contributing institutions have artifacts from other countries that have been uploaded to the digital library, plus there are collaborations with international counterparts planned. DPLA has already partnered with Europeana on an app which allows users to search both databases at once.

The best part, other than having everything in one place, is how easy it is to stumble on collections you didn’t know existed. Did you know that Harvard University Library has a collection of 3,000 daguerreotypes which have been digitized and are available to view over the Internet?

So off you go, then. Cancel all your plans for the weekend and have yourself a voyage through time, space and culture instead.

DPLA Description & Mission Statement
The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) is an all-digital library that aggregates metadata — or information describing an item — and thumbnails for millions of photographs, manuscripts, books, sounds, moving images, and more from libraries, archives, and museums around the United States. DPLA brings together the riches of America’s libraries, archives, and museums, and makes them freely available to the world.

The DPLA strives to contain the full breadth of human expression, from the written word, to works of art and culture, to records of America’s heritage, to the efforts and data of science. The DPLA aims to expand this crucial realm of openly available materials, and make those riches more easily discovered and more widely usable and used, through its portal and platform, and as an advocate for a strong public option in the twenty-first century.

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