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Digital Public Library of America (DPLA)

Last Updated: Dec 15, 2023 10:40 AM

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This database is freely available to the general public via the Internet.


Why use the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA)? A wealth of diverse material can be found and viewed quickly. “The DPLA aims to expand ... [the] realm of openly available materials, and make those riches more easily discovered and more widely usable and used.”

The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) is envisioned as a national digital library for the United States. It has begun to make accessible the digital content of libraries, archives, museums, and historical societies. DPLA is a distributed effort comprised of records contributed from various institutions. Each record links to the original object in the content provider’s website. Linked items include a diversity of formats: text, image, sound, and moving image. DPLA itself houses no content. As a distributed system, DPLA’s work occurs through two hubs: Content and Service. Content hubs are large repositories of digital data. Service hubs aggregate the data of providers and provide them with various services. Many linked items are in the public domain and may be downloaded.

DPLA is designed to work with the European Union’s parallel effort Europeana. As a demonstration project, the two have collaborated in creating an online “demonstration” exhibition on immigration. 

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Search Tips

As of this writing there are over 5,400,000 item records in DPLA. They may be searched or browsed in several ways. One may search by keyword(s) or browse by map (location of contributor), subjects (a broad predefined list) or by Timeline (decades or years). Searches are refined by a frame with displays narrowing options by: format (text, images, etc.), contributing institution (University of Michigan, Utah State Archives, etc.), partner (HathiTrust, Smithsonian Institution, etc.), or year or decade. Once executed, a search can be switched to any of these display options.

Searches may also be conducted using a “bookshelf” feature. Viewing the display: “the darker the shade of blue, the more relevant the results. Click on a spine for details and related images. Book thickness indicates the page count, and the horizontal length reflects the book’s actual height.”


DPLA searching is facilitated by a growing number of apps. Depending on what one is researching, one or more may prove very useful.


Linked items include a diversity of formats: text, image, sound, and moving image.

Dates Covered

Prehistory forward.

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Laura Taddeo
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Subjects: English