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Harvard Contributes Special Collections Materials to Digital Public Library of America

Harvard Library committed to expanding access to materials.
April 18, 2013—Several Harvard Library special collections are available through the newly-launched Digital Public Library of America (DPLA).

  • Daguerreotypes.  Harvard’s 3,500 daguerreotypes gathered in an online collection, which include some of the earliest photographs of the moon, views of the first use of ether and rare portraits of African-born slaves.
  • Latin American Pamphlets. More than 5,500 scarce and unique 19th and 20th century pamphlets from Chile, Cuba, Bolivia, Mexico, etc.
  • Trial Narratives More than 400 broadsides printed in the United States and the United Kingdom during the first half of the nineteenth century, which recount trials for murder, rape, divorce, domestic violence, adultery, bigamy, breach of promise to marry and the custody of children.
  • Medieval Manuscripts From the Houghton Library collection, more than 75 rare works in English, French, German, Italian and Greek that 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.
  • Crime Broadsides. More than 500 broadsides sold to audiences witnessing public executions in 18th and 19th century Britain.

The Harvard Library, the DPLA's first content hub, contains a wealth of special collections, and is dedicated to providing open access to them, where possible, through digitization and online dissemination. Through its collaboration with the DPLA, Harvard will contribute to global access to knowledge by linking to select digitized special collections. 
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.” 
As the Harvard Library pursues other digitization initiatives and reviews its digital holdings, it hopes to make additional material available through the DPLA. Projects that could fall in this category include collections of North American manuscripts from the 17th and 18th centuries and rare Chinese works.