Last week, after 2 1/2 years of planning and development work, the Digital Public Library of America was launched. The goal of this free, open-source project is to provide easy access to digital collections and archives across the country. The Smithsonian, the National Archives, New York Public Library, the University of Virginia, Harvard, Digital Library of Georgia, Minnesota Digital Library, Mountain West Digital Library, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are among the initial partners.
All of the content (text, photos, videos and audio) can be browsed or searched by place or time. Digitial exhibitions combine content with explanatory essays exploring topics such as:
- Bread and Roses Strike of 1912: Two Months in Lawrence, Massachusetts, that Changed Labor History
- Indomitable Spirits: Prohibition in the United States
While far from containing “all” U.S. digital collections, DPLA does provide access to close to 2.4 million items. How can this site help genealogists?
Try a search for a location. My search for “Tompkinsville Maryland” resulted in a link to the National Archives “1940 Census Enumeration District Descriptions - Maryland - Charles County - ED 9-6, ED 9-7, ED 9-8, ED 9-9”. By using the map feature and “zooming in,” I found an image of row houses on Deming Street in Chicago (from a University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign collection). Or try using the timeline to see images from the year your ancestor was born.
While Newberry digital content is not yet available through the site, we do have plans to participate. Newberry President and Librarian, David Spadafora, serves on the Advisory Committee and Newberry staff is working to make some Newberry content available soon.
There is an interesting article on the New York Review of Books website which provides additional details about the project. Keep your eye on this exciting new site with loads of potential for your genealogy toolkit!