Project Details

Book shelves full of books with colourful covers


One of the largest and most diverse digital library collections.

By Digital Public Library of America

Project URL:
Project Twitter: @dpla

  • Community Engagement
  • Data
  • Open Source
  • Social Software

The idea of creating a national digital public library of the United States was first mooted in the 1990s when it must have seemed no more than a possibility. Since then, digital public repositories of books, images and historical records have grown in a patchwork, from those of the Library of Congress and the HathiTrust, to state and university libraries. To take just one example, the Kentucky Digital Library currently provides access to 18 Kentucky archives, with 800,000 pages of newspapers, 110,000 photographs, 22,000 pages of archival material, 800 oral histories and 4,700 maps.

The Digital Public Library of America, created in 2011 after an initiative orchestrated by the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, brings together these different sources in a single platform, providing open access to one of the largest and most diverse digital cultural collections in the world. To date the DPLA has 2.4 million items online, with many more in the pipeline.

The Library is also encouraging a developer community to create apps to make the resources available in more engaging ways. An app called Culture Collage for example creates rivers of images from across the collection, while Stack Life allows people to create their own digital collections of the material.

The DPLA is breathing new life into libraries for the digital age, by creating an open, distributed network of comprehensive online resources to educate, inform, and empower everyone in current and future generations. Just as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology provided the model for the open courseware movement, which has since been followed around the world, so the DPLA could provide a model for many other national library collections globally.

Image 'Digitale media in de boekwinkel' courtesy of Marco Derksen

Last updated: 09th of May, 2014

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