It’s not very often you get to build a new library. Together, that’s what we will begin to do today. Starting with over two million items, each with its own special story and significance, the Digital Public Library of America will now begin to assemble the riches of our country’s libraries, archives, and museums, and connect them with the public.
Today also begins my tenure as the founding Executive Director of the DPLA, after twelve years at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University. My friend Roy always wanted “to use digital media and computer technology to democratize history” and the access to it; it is simply a joy and an honor to be able to extend that worthy mission with a library of this scale and openness.
Since I accepted the position, many people have been asking me what the Digital Public Library of America will actually be. Simply put, there will be three key elements to the DPLA:
- First, an easy-to-use portal where anyone can access America’s collections and search through them using novel and powerful techniques, including by place and time.
- Second, a sophisticated technical platform that will make those millions of items available in ways so that others can build creative and transformative applications upon them, such as smartphone apps that magically reveal the history around you.
- Third, along with like-minded institutions and individuals the DPLA will seek innovative means to make more cultural and scientific content openly available, and it will advocate for a strong public option for reading and research in the twenty-first century.
I see the Digital Public Library of America as a simple, but expansive and compelling, idea. Thankfully, I won’t be building it myself. Although the DPLA’s central office will be in Boston, where I will be moving with my family, DPLA staff and our many friends across the United States will fan out to forge partnerships, coordinate collective action, and solicit contributions of all types. I’ll be personally traveling across the U.S. to talk about the DPLA and to get the input of thousands of Americans.
It’s an incredibly rare opportunity to build something like the Digital Public Library of America—to shape a new, open portal to knowledge and wonder. I couldn’t be more excited, and I hope you can join me with your enthusiasm, your thoughts, and your contributions.
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