May 23, 2022

Harvard Library Will Share Some Special Collections Materials With Digital Public Library of America (DPLA)

As you’ll what will be shared is to be determined.

From a DPLA Announcement:

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


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.”

[Emphasis ours] 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.

Read the Complete Announcement

See Also: A Selection of Web Accessible Collections From the Harvard University Library

See Also: Open Collections Program at Harvard University Library

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.