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Minnesota chosen for national digital library project

By November 26, 2012September 16th, 2023No Comments

The Minnesota Digital Library, a state-wide collaboration consisting of Minitex, the University of Minnesota, the Minnesota Historical Society, and other key institutions, was chosen to be a key early contributor to the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA). The groundbreaking project aims to make our nation’s collections of significance to the study of American life digital, searchable, and accessible to the public.

Contact Information
John Butler
Associate University Librarian
University of Minnesota Libraries
612- 624-4362

With $2.8 million in funding, the DPLA will launch pilot projects in several states. Minnesota and state libraries and regional digital library collaboratives in Georgia, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Oregon, South Carolina, and Utah will participate as “service” hubs in the pilot effort.

Ultimately, users of the DPLA will be able to search across a network of local collections, finding information on a topic — like the Civil War or the Great Depression — via database entries from throughout the country. Organizers will also test ways to engage communities in contributing content to the archives, whether through adding context and tags to digital records, or sharing photos or recordings to digitize and make accessible.

The Minnesota Digital Library will receive about $350,000 in funding — $250,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and $100,000 from the Knight Foundation. The Minnesota Digital Library (MDL) is a service of Minitex, which is a joint program of the Minnesota Office of Higher Education and the University of Minnesota.

Funding will be used for:

  • Digitizing existing special collections held by libraries, museums, and historical societies and organizations across Minnesota, making them searchable and accessible through the DPLA.
  • Providing outreach and education to communities about the DPLA, including how to access its resources.
  • Supporting the development of new, “born digital” content, such as oral histories from first-generation immigrants.

“We are very excited about this project,” said John Butler, Associate University Librarian at the University of Minnesota Libraries. “Not only will we be able to digitize existing local content and make it accessible across the country, but the grant will help empower communities to share their rich histories in new ways.”

Through a project called Minnesota Reflections, the Minnesota Digital Library began digitizing content in 2004. Today, it contains over 120,000 images, maps, and documents from nearly 150 of the state’s libraries and cultural heritage organizations.

“Libraries and archives contain vast repositories of their community’s everyday history, a rich past with local and national resonance. Digitizing, categorizing and sharing these cultural assets electronically helps libraries in their evolution from information storehouses into dynamic hubs using history to create content and engage the community,” said George Martinez, director of information technology at Knight Foundation.

“The Digital Public Library of America is an ambitious effort to create a national digital library system that will make the cultural heritage of the United States available to anyone with access to the Internet,” said NEH Chairman Jim Leach.

The seven pilot sites will provide direct services at the regional and local level, digitizing thousands of items at each hub location, sending trainers to teach staff how to categorize the digitized materials, and providing virtual storage space.

The Digital Public Library of America is scheduled to launch a prototype in April 2013 that will make millions of digital items freely available to the public.

About the Minnesota Digital Library
The Minnesota Digital Library is a service of Minitex in cooperation with the Minnesota Historical Society and is funded by the Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund of the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment to the Minnesota state constitution. Minitex is a joint program of the Minnesota Office of Higher Education and the University of Minnesota. For more, visit

About the Digital Public Library of America
The Digital Public Library of America planning initiative is taking the first concrete steps toward the realization of a large-scale digital public library that will make the cultural and scientific record available to all. This impact-oriented research effort unites leaders from all types of libraries, museums, and archives with educators, industry, and government to define the vision for a digital library in service of the American public. The DPLA Secretariat is located at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University. For more, visit

About the National Endowment for the Humanities
Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. For more, visit

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
The Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities, and foster the arts. For more, visit

The Digital Public Library of America Digital Hubs Pilot is supported by the Open Knowledge Commons with funding provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities and by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Mark Engebretson

Author Mark Engebretson

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