Libraries are places a lot of young people get their start on the path to geekdom. They can spark a love of reading, and provide a place to explore interests however niche. As more and more information moves online, libraries are evolving, and part of that evolution goes live this week. On Thursday, the Digital Public Library of America will bring two million digital objects online for public consumption.
The Digital Public Library of America will feature cultural information about American history in digital form. We can’t all get our hands on the 1790 letter written by Thomas Jefferson accepting his Secretary of State job, but now we can view it online. There will also be letters written by George Washington, a handwritten (by Jefferson) copy of the Declaration of Independence, and many, many more artifacts available on the DPLA site dp.la.
The DPLA project will be modeled after existing online libraries like the EU’s Europeana, and Trove by the Australian National Library. It was started at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society of Harvard University. Dan Cohen, executive director of the DPLA hopes it will be an alternative for students and researchers to sites like Wikipedia, and even Google.
Cohen said, “I think we are going to have a lot better descriptions that won’t come through in a Google search,” and, “Wikipedia is a secondary source, but we are going to have the stuff.” Though he does say he thinks Wikipedia will be “a great partner.”
Unlike projects such as Google Books, the DPLA will offer what Cohen calls “a full array” of materials. Music, photography, and different forms of art will all be offered to the public in “an open fashion.”
The dp.la site will be usable on mobile devices as well, which will unlock location-based services. Users of the DPLA will be able to find what an area looked like in a specific time period, or discover digital versions of physical artifacts nearby.
The DPLA will be launched during a two day event at the Boston Public Library April 18th and 19th. The event will feature speakers, tours, and a discussion about the future of the project lead by Cohen himself.
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