The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) – a national project coordinated by Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society to provide access to digital collections from libraries, museums, and archives in the United States – announced $5 million in new funding and a new collaboration at its first conference today, Oct. 21. The conference was webcast live from the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

Sloan Foundation and Arcadia Fund to donate $5 million in funding

The Sloan Foundation and Arcadia Fund will donate $5 million toward the development of the DPLA, the largest donation ever made at the start of a Berkman Center for Internet & Society project.

The donation will support an intense two-year grassroots process to build a realistic and detailed work plan for the DPLA, including the development of a functional technical prototype and targeted content digitization efforts. The Sloan Foundation has previously committed $1 million toward the establishment of a DPLA Secretariat at the Berkman Center, and to support the legal work stream of the DPLA initiative by developing solutions to copyright law obstacles facing public digital library initiatives.

“I am thrilled by the tremendous support from the Sloan Foundation and Arcadia Fund, which will enable us to launch the Digital Public Library of America initiative, and by their belief in what we think can be a game-changer in how knowledge is shared,” said Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow. “The DPLA will revolutionize access to information nationwide, and I am proud that our Berkman Center is at the forefront of this vital and pathbreaking effort, led so beautifully by our own John Palfrey. This magnificent grant will enable foundational work to go forward with tremendous momentum, energy and focus.”

“We are excited to begin work on the DPLA as a full‐blown, hard‐driving initiative that promises to transform the world of libraries and the way that we meet the information needs of communities in America,” said HLS Professor John Palfrey, who chairs the DPLA Steering Committee. “We are deeply grateful to the Sloan Foundation and the Arcadia Fund for their support.”

Doron Weber, vice president of Programs at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, said: “This is a grand vision for a network of comprehensive online resources, tools, and services that will inform, educate, and empower everyone in the United States and eventually link us with the rest of the world. But we cannot do it alone and invite other funders to join us in this historic undertaking.”

Peter Baldwin, chair of the Donor Board at the Arcadia Fund, added: “What Carnegie did for public libraries a century ago, the DPLA could—if successful—accomplish for our era. We are delighted to be part of launching that effort.”

New collaboration with Europeana

DPLA organizers announced that the technical structure of the project will be compatible with Europeana, a similar digital library system that links the major libraries, museums, and archives of Europe.

DPLA Steering Committee member and Harvard librarian Robert Darnton said: “The association between the DPLA and Europeana means that users everywhere will eventually have access to the combined riches of the two systems at a single click. The aggregated databases will include many millions of books, pamphlets, newspapers, manuscripts, images, recordings, videos, and other materials in many formats.”

Europeana Executive Director Jill Cousins added: “Europeana was designed to be open and interoperable, and to be able to collaborate with the DPLA is a validation of that aim. By this combined effort on two continents, Europeana and the DPLA hope to promote the creation of a global network with partners from around the world.”

To demonstrate the potential of their combined collections, DPLA and Europeana will collaborate to create a virtual exhibition on the migration of Europeans to America. This pilot project will include letters, photographs and official records to illustrate the experience of the uprooted as they abandoned their homes to seek a new life thousands of miles across the ocean.

More information on DPLA is available on the project’s website.