The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) launched on April 18, and I have had some time to play around with it. So far, it’s an excellent collection of freely available materials online.
Right now, the DPLA has linked to over 2 million items, but it’s still growing. It hopes to reach 100 million items soon, according to this article in Publishing Perspectives.
When I was a graduate student, I spent a lot of time researching 19th Century periodicals. Many of them have been preserved at rare collection libraries and on microform/fiche. When I was researching these items, I found some online, but never in one convenient location.
Because the DPLA is open source, it collects items from Archive.org and digital libraries that have partnered with the DPLA. The DPLA serves as a central location, but a lot of the items are linked back to the original source.
For example, I did a search for Edgar Allan Poe. I found a copy of his short story “Eleonora” as it was originally published in The Gift: a Christmas and New Year’s Present for 1842. The DPLA site gives data on the item, but links out to its original source:
Once selected, the item is viewed at its original source (Archive.org in this case).
Another feature I enjoy at the DPLA is the timeline feature. This allows you to choose items based on year or decade. For example, the above item comes from 1841. By clicking on the year, I can see results from 1841 only:
For those researching a time period, or for those who want further information or context about an idea, this simplifies the process.
The DPLA has a lot of potential right now. As it grows, I hope to see even more unification of the many complicated library protocols. I wonder, too, if the DPLA will help develop the open access movement in academic research writing.
Digital library image courtesy of Johan Larsson, flickr creative commons