May 24, 2022

DPLA Releases Findings of Study on Using Large Digital Collections in Educational Settings

From the Report’s Summary and a DPLA Email:

Over the past nine months,the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) has conducted research, funded by the Whiting Foundation, about how it can best develop resources to facilitate educational use of its partner content.

Because DPLA largely aggregates cultural heritage content, the focus of this research was strategies for organizing primary source material for both K-12 and higher education instruction,explored in conversation with both online education resource creators and educators who work in the classroom.

This white paper summarizes the findings of those two avenues of research and synthesizes them into a set of recommendations for DPLA’s future education work.


Preliminary feedback from educators suggested that DPLA was exciting as a single place to find content but occasionally overwhelming because of the volume of accessible material. In our focus groups, we learned that educators are eager to incorporate primary sources into instructional activities and independent student research projects, but we can better help them by organizing source highlights topically and giving them robust context.

We also discovered how important it was to educators and students to be able to create their own primary-sourced based projects with tools supported by DPLA.

From other education projects, including many supported by our Hubs, we learned that sustainable education projects require teacher involvement, deep standards research, and specific outreach strategies.

Based on this research, we recommend that DPLA and its teacher advocates build curated content for student use with teacher guidance, and that DPLA use its position at the center of a diverse mix of cultural heritage institutions to continue to facilitate conversations about educational use. We see this report as the beginning of a process of working with our many partners and educators to make large digital collections like DPLA more useful and used.

Direct to Full Text Report (28 pages; PDF)

Using Large Digital Collections in Education: Meeting the Needs of Teachers and Students
by Franky Abbott and Dan Cohen
April 9, 2015.

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.