April 18, 2013 : The DPLA launches!
As part of the ever-expanding role of libraries in the digital age, the launch of the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) must count as a remarkable event. Fully open, that is, without any gated components whatsoever, the DPLA will provide platforms for contributors to build on, with the almost mystical goal of amassing and making available all manner of information sources, with an emphasis on that which is not currently accessible, thus multiplying the benefits of the Internet for generations to come.
Anyone of us who at some time has valued primary sources—correspondence, working papers, diaries, minutes, inventories, genealogies, photographs, maps, blueprints, sound recordings, in sum the documented traces of human history—has occasion to celebrate this “greatest digital history project of all time” as those steering at the helm envision it. Inspired by Europeana Library and the Trove Project of Australia, and vastly more capacious than commercial initiatives such as Google Books, the DPLA not only has partnerships underway with a myriad state and university archives, but also with the national libraries of France, Ireland, Great Britain, Netherlands, Germany, and Norway.
Innovations such as “Workstream” collectives charged with governance, finance, and constructive channeling of input, to say nothing of the idea of the “Scannebago” (a mobile scanning unit designed to be sent out to digitize local archives), have engendered a certain excitement. A chronicle of how the idea got off the ground, owing to the efforts of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, has been cheerfully and succinctly outlined by Robert Darnton in the New York Review of Books: