Discover America’s cultural heritage institutions with DPLA

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What is the DPLA?

While the Library of Congress serves as America’s defacto national library, it does not facilitate access to the material held by thousands of cultural heritage institutions across the country. Similar to the pan-European digital library Europeana, the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) was designed to provide a single portal to all of America’s library holdings. While this may seem like an enormous and daunting task, the DPLA operates by dividing the country into geographic regional hubs, each tasked with gathering materials from its constituent libraries, archives, and museums.

Making digital collections ‘discoverable’

Lehigh’s regional hub is PADigital, which started at Temple University and has since grown to include 81 cultural heritage institutions across the state of Pennsylvania representing over 350,000 items ingested into the DPLA.

The DPLA further simplifies the process of making materials accessible by only gathering and presenting metadata about objects hosted in digital repositories at other institutions. This means that collections can be made discoverable through the DPLA using nothing more than a spreadsheet describing the objects, image thumbnails, and links to the original item.

In total, the DPLA currently provides access to over 29 million items, with the National Archives and Records Administration, Smithsonian Institute, HathiTrust, and New York Public Library being the largest contributors.

In addition to providing a powerful search tool for finding items spread across the country, the DPLA also uses the wealth of cultural heritage materials it hosts to create inter-institutional digital exhibitions and sets of primary source materials for teachers to use in class.

Lehigh and the DPLA; contributions quadruple

Lehigh’s contributions to the DPLA began with the I Remain Digital Archive of Letters, Manuscripts, and Ephemera. This initial presence in the DPLA of around 750 items has since quadrupled in size, to 2,366 items, expanding to include Lehigh’s postcard collection, historical student publications, Epitome yearbooks, and other materials uploaded to the Internet Archive.

Lehigh Special Collections plans to continue adding new and existing digital collections to the DPLA, including its stereographs, local history materials, athletics materials, and more. Adding Lehigh material to the DPLA makes our outstanding digital collections easier to discover and accessible to a diverse group of new users. To see everything that the DPLA has to offer, including Lehigh’s contributions, visit DPLA and browse by contributing institution.