NEH Awards Grant to Digital Public Library of America

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) recently announced a $1 million award to support the incorporation and launch of the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), a groundbreaking project that seeks to digitize and bring together the contents of our nation’s libraries and archives, and make them freely available to all online.

To be created through a coalition of libraries, archives, museums, and other nonprofit and academic entities in coordination with the Open Knowledge Commons, the Digital Public Library of America will ultimately serve as a single portal for diverse, interdisciplinary digital archives from a range of institutions. It would allow scholars, students, and lifelong learners to simultaneously access multiple collections. For example, a scholar researching the roles African Americans played during the Civil War would be able to search a wide range of collections with relevant materials, potentially ranging from military records and photographs to newspapers and early 20th century recollections.

The NEH award will specifically support the creation of the infrastructure for a national open-access digital library. The DPLA will partner with statewide digital library projects to establish a pilot group of “service hubs” responsible for coordinating the creation and dissemination of content within designated geographic areas. The project will also entail the designation of a number of large existing digital collections as “content hubs” that will make their data available through DPLA. It is expected that project participants will work together to develop agreements to protect of the rights of the many parties involved. One outcome will be the development of the common technological platform necessary for integration of collections from disparate sources.

The project is designed to demonstrate how local and national collections can be linked to one sky-way with global access ramps. It will, for example, work with the European Union to promote interoperability with its Europeana collection, a comparable digital library effort currently underway.