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Digital Public Library of America


When searching through the branches of a family tree, people are looking to know more about the connections they share with people and part of that is knowing about the time those people lived. Our library can help you access many different works, but we do not carry everything. Older, more niche materials or interesting primary source documents may be held by only a few libraries, mostly academic, with limited options to be viewed by the public.

Good Housekeeping
Good Housekeeping Magazine, January 1910

The Digital Public Library of America, or DPLA for short, is an organization that “connects people to the riches held within America’s libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural heritage institutions.” This is done in partnership with a multitude of organizations dedicated to making historical and cultural resources available at no cost to the public. Between partners like the Internet Archive, Hathi Trust, Smithsonian Institution, and many public and academic libraries, over 33 million records are offered. You can kill a lot of time just digging through everything, such as old issues of Good Housekeeping. That “family recipe” passed down to you have been clipped from a publication like this one. They also have a very good offering of military related content.

Old soldier, young soldier
Old soldier, young soldier

Not only do they provide a vast array of historical material, but a great deal of curated content. The Exhibitions section showcases student made projects created using materials foraged from the collection. These can ranged from small bits of history like a city’s sports legacy (Boston Sports Temples) to the evolution of the personal camera.

Some interesting ones include:

The Primary Source sets are another useful feature. Made by educators for educators, each collection is filled with maps, photos, documents, and letters that give a glimpse into the period and subject they cover. They also include teaching guides to help guide discussion in classroom environments.

Immigration Interview on Angel Island

Particularly for genealogists, I would recommend any set that concerns immigration and migration such as Immigration through Angel Island. Search by the subject “Migration” for more on this topic. These collections provide a good overview of many major points of immigration into and through the United States.

Note that not all content provided by the organization is public domain and some items may only be searched, not viewed. Overall, the DPLA is a good research tool for anyone with an interest in history or genealogy. Check it out today.



Upcoming DPLA Fest 2019 coming to Chicago April 17-18 2019

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