On Friday 26 June I attended ‘Turning digital: delights, dangers and drama’ a digitisation seminar for the GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums) sector at the State Library of NSW.
The featured speaker was Rachel Frick from the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA). Her presentation started with her upbringing in Nitro, West Virginia, and referenced something I have heard many times in recent years – how people from every kind of background have had formative experiences in free public libraries that were accessible by public transport. Although her talk was mostly about metadata (a topic that can cause even librarians’ eyes to glaze over) she held the audience spellbound with stories of making library, museum, gallery and even government agencies’ collections accessible to the world through a single searchable metadata store.
The DPLA is a network and a platform – a way of aggregating information about the digital resources of libraries, archives, government agencies, museums and more across the USA. Metadata about items digitised is fed into the platform, and the aggregated data can be downloaded and manipulated using an Application Program Interface (API). This allows members, or in fact anyone, to analyse the digital collections. Rachel showed examples of data visualisations that had been done using the API – the scope of material about ‘western Pennsylvania’, images using the colour ‘navy’, and an interesting one which showed the variety of permission statements used. This led to a wider discussion about the need for greater understanding of the rights inherent in digital copies of collection materials, particularly for those where the original item is in the public domain (out of copyright).