The Digital Public Library of America will launch on April 18 after two and a half years of careful planning and preparation. The project known as DPLA is the first national effort that seeks to aggregate existing records in state and regional digital libraries so that they are searchable from a single portal. Up until now, the documents that tell the story of our nation’s history and cultural heritage have largely been siloed in state and local libraries, museums, and archives. Some institutions have the ability to digitize those valuable materials and put them online, but strained budgets mean that most do not.
The project’s funding will also allow it to work with local communities to digitize their cultural-heritage—preserving them for the future and bringing them online as part of our first national digital library.DPLA will bring together access to a diverse host of materials that were once stored on a patchwork of different websites, or not online at all, including newspapers, photographs, letters, newsreels, oral histories, manuscripts, books and public records. This could be a game changer for academic researchers and historians, who will be able to see more apparent connections between various local histories, perhaps for the first time. Students, teachers and amateur historians will be able to peruse DPLA’s rich exhibits and learn about their own history and genealogy. And local communities will see their history preserved rather than lost to the deterioration of time.