Would you like to see a draft of the Declaration of Independence in the handwriting of Thomas Jefferson? How about letters penned by George Washington, or daguerreotype images of Abraham Lincoln? Perhaps you’d prefer to page through medieval manuscripts?
With the launch of the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) a treasure trove of historical and cultural data has become available to anyone with an Internet connection – for free!
Many of the items in the DPLA are not available by Web search; they are invisible to search engines like Google or Yahoo because they are kept on hard drives in local museums or historical societies.
Starting with over two million objects, the DPLA brings together digital renderings of photos, books, sounds, moving images and more from places such as the Smithsonian Institution and the National Archives, along with museums, libraries and historical institutions around the country. A partnership with Europeana, the digital library of Europe, provides you with quick and easy access to that library’s vast resources, as well.
You can browse and search the DPLA’s collections by timeline, map, format, and topic; save items to customized lists; and share your lists with others. You can also explore digital exhibitions curated by the DPLA’s content partners and staff.
At opening, there are six exhibitions, including one that tells the story of cultural disruption, change and continuity in Minnesota and the surrounding areas during the 19th century through objects of both Native and non-Native origin. Another exhibition offers an exploration of the history, impact, and significance of our national parks and protected areas.
This new online library is the result of a massive, years-long effort to bring together the riches of America’s libraries, archives, and museums in order to make them freely available to the world. Enjoy!