Digital Public Library of America

On Friday the first Plenary Session of the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) was hosted at the National Archives.  The Project was launched in October 2010 at a workshop convened at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and was the inspiration of Robert Darnton, the Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor and Director of the Harvard University Library.  The intent was to work toward the creation of “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 the current and future generations.”  A lofty goal, indeed!

Visual artist drawing on poster board.  Poster titled: DLPA - What is the DPLA?

In the intervening months since that original meeting, the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, with funding from the Sloan Foundation, has taken on responsibilities for moving the project forward.  A Secretariat and Steering Committee have been formed, as well as six work streams—audience and participation, content and scope, financial/business models, governance, legal issues, and technical aspects.

This past Thursday the work streams met for the first time at George Washington University to discuss their work, create scope statements and identify their priorities.  Most importantly, each group identified and shared their overlap areas with the whole group.

On Friday more than 300 government leaders, librarians, technologist, makers, students, and others interested members of the public “occupied” the National Archives to share their visions for the DPLA.    The Sloan and Arcadia Foundations announced $5m in additional funding for the Project.  Europeana, the European Digital Library, announced its intention of collaborating on interoperability among libraries, museum, and archives in the United States and Europe.  And David Weinberger announced that his “head and heart are exploding to interoperate!”

A series of nine Beta Sprint demonstration presented possible DPLA prototypes.  I am especially proud of the one done collaboratively by the National Archives, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Library of Congress.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to seamlessly search across all three collections?!

Don’t feel left out!  The intent is to engage anyone who is interested.  And I encourage you to get interested and help invent the future.  Go to for more information on the project, work stream participation opportunities, take a peek at the Beta Sprint prototypes, and contribute your ideas about DPLA.

Photo credit: Visual artist taking notes during DPLA. Photo by Chris Freeland.

2 thoughts on “Digital Public Library of America

  1. NARA gets a great big “huzzah” and “congratulations” for hosting the DPLA Plenary last week. It was an amazing gathering, and it gives us so much to look forward to in the near future. David, your question, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful to seamlessly search across all three collections?!” is spot on. NARA has what it takes to be a part of a future NARA-Library of Congress-Smithsonian cross-collection search in DPLA. If NARA continues to take part in collaborative and cooperative projects such as NACO and SACO, and future National Archival Authority Cooperative, common name and subject authorities will make cross-collection searching of the D.C. Big Three a reality.

    Also, huge kudos to Quinn Bruster and her event planning colleages at Archives 1 for a job very well done.


  2. Almost forgot … Heather Klar of Image Think needs a big shot out here. She’s the artist in the photograph providing the brilliant, on-the-spot artwork during the DPLA Plenary. I hope we can see more of Heather and her colleagues at future NARA events such as this one.

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