Harvard to Contribute Special Collections Materials to Digital Public Library of America

Harvard to Contribute Special Collections Materials to Digital Public Library of America

Posted by Kenny Whitebloom on October 31, 2012 in DPLA Updates, Featured.
Harvard Library committed to expanding access to materials

October 31, 2012 — The Harvard Library plans to share several collections with the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA)—becoming the first DPLA content hub.

The Harvard Library contains a wealth of special collections, and is dedicated to providing open access to them, where possible, through digitization and online dissemination. Through its
collaboration with the DPLA, Harvard will contribute to global access to knowledge by linking to select digitized special collections.

Robert Darnton, Harvard University Librarian and DPLA Steering Committee member, noted, “By making their special collections available to the public through the DPLA, research libraries can contribute mightily to the democratization of access to knowledge. Harvard’s collections, built up since 1638, form the largest university library in the country. By supporting the DPLA, we will make the choicest items in them accessible to everyone in America—and eventually, we hope, to everyone in the world.”

In response to the DPLA’s call, the Harvard Library is actively exploring what collections it could contribute. Work remains to be done on various fronts before a final decision is made about specific collections, but the Harvard Library looks forward to making a number of its collections available to the DPLA. Among them, the following have already been digitized and could be available to the DPLA before its launch in April 2013:

  • Colonial Harvard. An online guide and an expanding digital data base with thousands of items—diaries, commonplace books, correspondence, legal documents, University records, drawings, maps, student notebooks, scientific observations and lecture notes—that form the documentary history of Harvard and serve as one of the great social history collections on the evolving United States.
  • Daguerreotypes. Harvard’s 3,500 daguerreotypes gathered in an online collection. The images include some of the earliest photographs of the moon, views of the first use of ether and rare portraits of African-born slaves.
  • Digital Scores and Libretti. First and early editions and manuscripts of works by J.S. Bach (and family), Mozart, Schubert and others.
  • Zoology. The Jacques Burkhardt Collection comprising 976 scientific drawings of fish and miscellaneous vertebrates and invertebrates. The collection also includes field notes, correspondence, diaries, photographs and specimen records from Louis Agassiz’s 15-month Brazil expedition in 1865-66.
  • Digital Maps. Over 1,000 maps and atlases, many georeferenced for use in GIS. Includes maps of New England towns, London, China, pictorial maps by Ernest Dudley Chase, fire-insurance and real-property atlases and maps from the Revolutionary War.
  • Trial Narratives. More than 450 pamphlets and chapbooks printed in the United States and the United Kingdom during the first half of the nineteenth century. They recount trials for murder, rape, divorce, domestic violence, adultery, bigamy, breach of promise to marry and the custody of children.
  • Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts. More than 75 rare works in English, French, German, Italian, and Greek. From the collection of Houghton Library, these manuscripts reflect a broad range of subjects in history, literature, religion, science and geography. This selection also includes richly illuminated books of hours used for private devotion.

Harvard holds the largest collection of the original manuscripts of poems by Emily Dickinson. It is now assembling these manuscripts and other material into a digital Emily Dickinson Archive,
which it could make available to the DPLA as well. And as it pursues other digitization initiatives and reviews its digital holdings, it may make additional material available. Projects that could fall in this category include collections of North American manuscripts from the 17th and 18th centuries, rare Chinese works and materials from the Library’s Open Collections Program.

“The Harvard Library is committed to collaboration and open access. Earlier this year, the Library made more than 12 million of its records publically available, and is actively pursuing additional collaborative and open access projects. We hope this contribution is one of many steps toward sharing the vital cultural knowledge in libraries with all,” said Mary Lee Kennedy, Senior Associate Provost for the Harvard Library.

The DPLA is still taking shape, and Harvard’s collaboration with it is contingent upon working out satisfactory arrangements on a range of matters. The Harvard Library will ensure that any materials made available by it through the DPLA do not infringe copyright.


Kira Poplowski
Director of Communications
The Harvard Library
kira_poplowski at harvard.edu.

Kenny Whitebloom
Project Coordinator
Berkman Center for Internet & Society
kwhitebloom at cyber.law.harvard.edu

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