The Digital Public Library of America has launched a beta of its website today. The previously planned launch event was to be held at the Boston Public Library this week, but was cancelled as a result of the Boston marathon bombings.The DPLA's portal brings together the digital collections of public libraries and museums across the country, hoping to offer a streamlined, one stop destination for searching archives.
"The wonder and joy of entering an expansive library for the first time is truly a special feeling. We are delighted to be able to share this unified, open collection with Americans and the world, and can’t wait to see what people discover," Executive Director Dan Cohen said in a prepared statement.
The project is still in beta, but it launches with several special sections beyond its search portal, including a map and timeline which allow users to browse and search information and items visually, and a library of applications, giving users access to apps created by developers using the DPLA's API. At the time of launch, the app library includes two applications, both for searching and visualizing the DPLA collections.
The Library also launches with several special exhibitions, including A History of Survivance: 19th c. Upper Midwest Native American Resources in the DPLA, developed with the Minnesota Digital Library, This Land Is Your Land: Parks and Public Spaces, developed by the South Carolina Digital Library, and Boston Sports Temples, developed by the Digital Commonwealth.
The goal is to bring the nation’s rich cultural collections off the shelves and into the innovative environment of the internet
While the partnerships at launch time number in the dozens, including institutions such as the Smithsonian, Harvard University, and the New York Public Library, the DPLA's goal is clearly steady expansion and growth of its archives. One interesting collection it will have at launch is the The David Rumsey Map Collection, which has not previously been available online. The one notable, gaping omission is the Library of Congress, though Harvard University Librarian Robert Darnton wrote in the New York Review of Books earlier this month that the Library's sponsors "hope that the Library of Congress also will participate." Director of the DPLA Secretariat Maura Marx said in the announcement that the library's goal is "to bring the entire nation’s rich cultural collections off the shelves and into the innovative environment of the Internet for people to discover, download, remix, reuse and build on in ways we haven’t yet begun to imagine.”
The DPLA launches with 2.4 million records, including access to the illuminated 1514 manuscript of The Book of Hours, daguerrotypes of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington, and works by Thomas Jefferson.