The Spirit of Boston

On Monday, April 15, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum suffered a fire. It was quickly managed and extinguished by first responders from the Boston Fire Department and the Boston Police Department. My sincere thanks go to them for their extraordinary efforts. I am grateful that no one was injured.

This fire occurred around the same time as the awful attack in Copley Plaza during the Boston Marathon. Our hearts go out to the victims of that terrible, terrible event. I have close ties to Boston. I have run that marathon with those people in the past and have had friends and relatives cheering for me at that finish line.  I found this incident to be particularly sad and troubling.

The Boston Police Department is investigating the cause of the fire and initial indications are that it was not connected to the bombings at the Boston Marathon.  Please remember the people affected by the tragedy in Boston on Monday, and wish for their resilience and for their healing.

Today, the work of the American people continues in Boston, and my heartfelt congratulations go out to the people who have been working hard to develop the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), which is launching online today.  Unfortunately, Monday’s tragedy occurred at the very steps of where the official gala launch was planned to be held, the Boston Public Library. The gala has been canceled, but the true spirit of the Digital Public Library of America, the spirit of working together for the benefit of all, continues on.

The Digital Public Library of America is the result of a large-scale collaborative effort to create a universal digital public library, with the goal of making America’s cultural and scientific record free and publically available to all. This effort has united leaders from all types of archives, libraries, museums, and cultural institutions with educators, industry, and government to define the vision for a digital library in service of the American public.

For the past two years, I have served as co-chair of the DPLA’s Governance workstream, working with colleagues from various government agencies, libraries, archives and museums to define a system of decision making and management for the DPLA.  Together with several large content providers, such as the New York Public Library, the Smithsonian, and Harvard University, the National Archives will now be sharing content from our online catalog for the DPLA’s Digital Hubs Pilot Project.

In fact,  the National Archives has already contributed 1.2 million digital copies from our online catalog, including our nation’s founding documents, photos from the Documerica Photography Project of the 1970’s, World War II posters, Mathew Brady Civil War photographs, and a wide variety of documents that define our human and civil rights.

I am especially proud of the work done collaboratively by the National Archives and participating institutions to make the vision of the Digital Public Library of America a reality. The ability to seamlessly search across the collections of major cultural, historical, and research institutions improves democracy through education, and furthers the principles of Open Government. Our goal for the DPLA is to engage and connect with users from all across the United States and the world, opening our holdings more broadly for greater access, education and research.

More information is online at

General David McMurtrie Gregg and Staff of Six, photograph by Mathew Brady Fraktur (Illustrated Family Record) Civil Rights March on Washington, DC Letter Written in Cipher on Mourning Paper by Rose Greenhow We Can Do It Evening, McDonald Lake, Glacier National Park by Ansel Adams Engrossed Declaration of Independence Eleanor Roosevelt votes in Hyde Park, New York, 11/03/1936 Earth, as seen by Astronauts from Apollo 17 Top Women at U.S. Steel’s Gary, Indiana Works, 1940-1945 Your Victory Garden Counts More Than Ever 1941-1945 Image Map

7 thoughts on “The Spirit of Boston

  1. How sad that the debut of DPLA was marred by the tragedy on Monday. Glad to see NARA in a leadership role with this new initiative!

  2. A beautiful post, David, thanks for writing it! And thanks, too, to all the employees behind the scenes at the many institutions participating in DPLA who have worked and are working on digitization activities to “make it happen.” And a nod of appreciation to @jfklibrary and @usnatarchives on Twitter and the NARA and Presidential Libraries Facebook page content providers. They all did such a good job keeping the public informed of news regarding the Kennedy Presidential Library and events in Boston in a thoughtful and timely fashion on Monday.

  3. What a wonderful posting. To see NARA as a partner in this great initiative is one reason that I am proud to work for this instituation; proud to be a Historian; and proud to be an American. Also, atlthough a native New-Yorker, I am very glad the DPLA has its home in my favorite (American) city: Boston. This just adds another page to Boston’s already thick book of historical preservation.

  4. Thanks for this post. I really admire all that you and NARA are doing to help DPLA get off the ground. A practical, user centered conversation about how libraries, archives and museums can share better on the Web with each other is long overdue. Also, 1.2 million items is a great way to come off the starting line!

  5. It is wonderful that the NARA is saving the flora and having the items pressed. I look forward to seeing the identified species in later posts.

  6. What happened in Boston was truly terrible. Let us hope and pray that never happens again, or anything worse. Thanks for this post, it was a breath of fresh air!

  7. I just hope this puts an end to all the crazy events of late. I’m thankful there were so many cameras that its hard to get in or out of a public location without being filmed.

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