The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), which aims to “make the holdings of America’s research libraries, archives, and museums available to all Americans,” will launch on April 18. The project is three years in the making.
In an article at the New York Review of Books, Robert Darnton, director of the Harvard University library and a member of the DPLA’s committee, writes:
“To make it work, we must think big and begin small. At first, the DPLA ’s offering will be limited to a rich variety of collections—books, manuscripts, and works of art—that have already been digitized in cultural institutions throughout the country. Around this core it will grow, gradually accumulating material of all kinds until it will function as a national digital library.”
The DPLA will interoperate with Europeana, a similar initiative in the European Union. At launch, the DPLA will contain two to three million items, Darnton writes, and describes some of them:
“For example, in serving as a hub, Harvard plans to make available to the DPLA by the time of its launch 243 medieval manuscripts; 5,741 rare Latin American pamphlets; 3,628 daguerreotypes, along with the first photographs of the moon and of African-born slaves; 502 chapbooks and “penny dreadfuls” about sensational crimes, a popular genre of literature in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; and 420 trial narratives from cases involving marriage and sexuality. Harvard expects to provide a great deal more in the following months, notably in fields such as music, cartography, zoology, and colonial history. Other libraries, archives, and museums will contribute still more material from their collections.”
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