April 18, 2013, marked the debut of the DPLA, the Digital Public Library of America. You’ve never heard of the DPLA? You’re not alone. Lots of librarians have been reading and hearing about it since October 2010 when a group of 40 leaders from libraries, universities and foundations met to try to make the dream of a free, digital public library a reality.
The DPLA has ambitious goals 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.” Did they succeed?
The DPLA received important grant funding and formed important partnerships with organizations like the National Archives, the N.Y. Public Library, and the Smithsonian Institute to name a few. That means you can search the DPLA website to access digital collections at all of the partner institutions. Search by exhibit collection, place, timeline, or date.
Check out an exhibit on Activism in the USA or Parks and Public Spaces. Check out how many items are dated from the year you were born by using the timeline (11,750 from my birth year – see if you can find it).
Is the DPLA finished? Does it have “everything”? Even if we could figure out what “everything” is that wouldn’t be likely. And not everything accessible through searches in the DPLA is in the public domain so user still have to be sure they comply with copyright laws. But – it is the auspicious beginning of portal to a wide variety of important, historical, and really interesting books, historical records, images, and audiovisual materials. It might lead you to materials that can help you with that next project . . . or help you find a way to send a rainy afternoon. Check it out.