On October 21, 2011 the Digital Public Library of America hosted an all-day plenary meeting at the National Archives in Washington, DC. The event brought together some of the biggest names in the library community to present the history of and vision for the DPLA effort. Flanked by note-taking graphic artists, presenters took the stage over the course of the day to describe personal visions and dreams for the DPLA, highlight current events in the nation’s capital related to digital libraries, introduce and explain the best ideas and models submitted to the Beta Sprint, describe preliminary workstream mission statements and progress, and, perhaps above all, herald the commencement of DPLA’s 18-month construction phase.
David Ferriero, the Archivist of the United States, opened the day with a warm introduction and expressed his excitement for the project. James A. Leach, Chairmen of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), then provided a unique NEH perspective on DPLA. He addressed the division between academic disciplines, noting that the boundaries between science and the humanities, which have over the course of the past couple of decades increased, can now be thought of as surmountable using new approaches to technology. Digitization, he pointed out, has provided a common ground for all disciplines. Mr. Leach described DPLA as a revolutionary advance in the development of ideas, speaking to the democratic potential of a national digital library. Mr. Leach said, harkening the public good, “just as we need an infrastructure of roads and bridges, we need an infrastructure of ideas.”
Doron Weber of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation took the stage next and provided a brief historical overview of the DPLA. He announced that the Sloan Foundation would provide a $2.5 million grant for the DPLA project over the next two years, which would be matched by the Arcadia foundation. Mr. Weber called the DPLA “a big, bold idea for a digital age, a collaborative public-private effort to support and complement [our] existing library systems.”
Peter Baldwin then spoke on behalf of the Arcadia foundation and introduced some of its projects and ideals. He described many of them as “boutique digitization projects,” and celebrated the DPLA’s moving of the digital library era to a new, more expansive, and influential phase.