How people used DPLA resources in 2020
Amid both the hopeful and sobering news of the past week, you may also have seen Google’s recent release of its annual top search terms lists for 2020. Some we probably could have predicted at this time last year: election results, Iran, Tom Brady. Of course, there were many more we would never have guessed: coronavirus symptoms, hand sanitizer, sourdough bread, cutting hair at home, Zoom. As we look back on the ups and downs of our own year at DPLA, we wanted to share with you some information about how the 1.5 million people who visited dp.la this year used our resources:
- We saw people turning to the past to try to understand our current situation. Beginning in the earliest days of the COVID-19 outbreak, we saw a huge spike in traffic to our Flu Pandemic of 1918 exhibition (54 times what we saw in the same timeframe last year). Our There is No Cure for Polio primary source set also saw a big bump in traffic (about five times last year).
- Our free educational resources, including our primary source sets and exhibitions, saw elevated traffic beginning as the pandemic set in and virtual learning became the norm. We saw sustained interest in American history-related topics, especially our perennially popular The New Deal primary source set. Our most viewed educational resources also included our online exhibition on the Golden Age of Radio and our primary source sets on the Black Power Movement, American Imperialism and the Spanish-American War, and Cherokee Removal and the Trail of Tears.
- Many of our most viewed artifacts this year were related to the history of slavery and abolition, including this image of Harriet Tubman and her family from New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center, this written account of the slave trade from HathiTrust, and this map of the Underground Railroad from Ohio Digital Network.
- Our new Black Women’s Suffrage Digital Collection has brought in thousands of new visitors to dp.la, and they’re exploring artifacts like this telegram from Jesse Hathcock to Dr. and Mrs. W.E.B. DuBois from Digital Commonwealth and this image of Sojourner Truth from the National Portrait Gallery.
- Life in the time of COVID-19 has left some of us busier than ever before, but it’s left others with more time on their hands, and that may explain the uptick in traffic to our family history resources and related artifacts, like school yearbooks, military service records, and family bibles.
- One thing’s for sure: It hasn’t been an easy year for any of us. And in addition to comforting activities like bread-baking and jigsaw puzzles, people are reading. Of the more than 8,000 books available for free download from our Open Bookshelf, these were the three most popular novels: Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens; Dracula by Bram Stoker, and A Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe. Open textbooks like this calculus textbook and this one about intellectual property and writing also made our list of most downloaded titles.
- And maybe there’s some solace to be found in artifacts from our aggregation? For the first time, this 1917 Handel opera from HathiTrust was among our most viewed items, as well as this recording of a 2002 Library of Congress concert from Mountain West Digital Library.
In addition to usage via dp.la, our new Wikimedia project has and will continue to allow for vastly expanded discovery and use of DPLA artifacts. As you may know, DPLA is now the largest single contributor to Wikimedia Commons—in 2020, DPLA uploaded over 1.25 million images from 7 partners. And we are delighted to report that in the 10 months since the first item was uploaded in February 2020, DPLA artifacts have received more than 7.5 million views on Wikimedia. Items from DPLA now receive more than 2.5 million views per month.
Although the world has changed a great deal in the past 12 months, one thing that has remained is the ever-growing need for digital access to knowledge. A big thank you to our funders, contributing institutions, partners, site visitors, and friends for your continued efforts to make a national digital library possible. We’d love to see you all at our next Community + Open Board Meeting on January 15th at 2 pm ET. ‘Til then, we wish you a joyful holiday season, and a happier, healthier 2021.