Since its launch in 2013, the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) has grown as an online platform connecting thousands of items from libraries, museums, and other institutions across the country. The idea is to make digitized content centrally available to researchers and the greater public, whether it comes from large organizations like the Smithsonian Institution or regional libraries.
On November 29, the Library of Congress (LOC) joined that lineup, signing a memorandum of understanding to share some of its digital holdings as a DPLA content hub. This is an important partnership for both institutions, as it bolsters the DPLA’s role as a valuable nexus for cross-institutional data and ensures the accessibility of the LOC’s significant digital resources.
The first LOC records offered in the DPLA database are related to cartography. Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden stated in a release that the LOC “will be sharing some beautiful, one-of-a-kind historic maps that I think people will really love. They are available online and I hope even more people discover them through DPLA.” Specifically, the initial records will involve 5,000 objects from the LOC Geography and Map Division, including those charting the American Revolution and the late 18th century, the American Civil War, and panoramic maps.
The latter are especially interesting. They were popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when aerial photography was often impossible, or had to be carried out with innovative tactics like kites. Before the Wright Brothers took off in 1903, aerial views were basically limited to balloon rides, so these illustrated maps are based on either geographic measurements or visual impressions. Yet they cover a vast amount of land, from the colorful World’s Fair grounds in 1893 Chicago or 1904 St. Louis to the busy waterways of 1870 New York City and 1885 Madison, Wisconsin. I even found one map of my hometown of Bartlesville, Oklahoma, in 1917, when the state was only a decade old; it shows some tiny passengers in a car rolling into town on the Ozark Trail.
The DPLA notes that, in the future, the LOC will add “other collections such as photos, maps and sheet music.” Meanwhile, you can find hundreds of panoramic maps on the LOC site that will also be accessible through the DPLA, with a number of them spotlighted below.
Read more about the new Library of Congress and Digital Public Library of America collaboration on the DPLA site.