More Good Reasons to Study the Humanities

59c16-i_love_humanities_tshirt-p235524076469557183trlf_400These come from Ilana Gershon and Noah Berlastsky at The Pacific Standard.

Here is a taste of their piece “Studying Humanities Teaches You How to Get a Job.”

“If you’re studying interpretive dance, God bless you, but there’s not a lot of jobs right now in America looking for people with that as a skill set,” Kentucky governor Matt Bevin declared in September, at a conference about higher education. Bevin’s skepticism about the humanities and arts isn’t an anomaly; politicians regularly joke about the supposed uselessness of non-STEM training. In 2014, President Barack Obama told students to major in trades rather than art history. In 2011, Governor Rick Scott of Florida said that it wasn’t of “vital interest” to his state to have students major in anthropology. And so on. Math, engineering, science, trades: Those are practical, politicians agree. Literature, art, and anthropology? Those don’t help you get jobs.

In fact, the reverse is true: The skills you learn in the humanities are exactly the skills you use in a job search. The humanities teach students to understand the different rules and expectations that govern different genres, to examine social cues and rituals, to think about the audience for and reception of different kinds of communications. In short, they teach students how to apply for the kinds of jobs students will be looking for after college.

Read the rest here.

Digital Public Library of America Lands Large Grant

Press release from the DPLA website:

BOSTON — The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) announced today $594,000 in new funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to research potential sustainability models and to pursue the most promising option (or options). This two-year grant will allow DPLA to expand its staff to target opportunities for further development and revenue, without compromising its mission of open access to the riches of America’s libraries, archives, and museums.

“We deeply appreciate the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s generous support, which will help us build on DPLA’s tremendous momentum,” said DPLA Executive Director Dan Cohen. “Our ambitious coast-to-coast accumulation of openly available materials will take years to bring together and to put into educational contexts and public programs, and achieving a sustainable model will be critical to fulfilling that mission.”

The project, which will proceed in a series of phases, is designed to first comprehensively flesh out an emerging set of sustainability pathways for the young organization. In the following phases, DPLA will narrow down those options in concert with its partners and through additional technical and content work.

New positions in business development, content, and technology will help DPLA achieve this sustainable path. The opening for a Content Specialist is immediately available; other positions will be released in the near future at

Historic Maps at the Digital Public Library of America

This article at The Atlantic calls our attention to the 38,000 historical maps from the collection of David Rumsey that can be found at the Digital Public Library of America.  Here is a taste:

More than three decades ago, David Rumsey began building a map collection. By the mid-90s he had thousands and thousands of maps to call his own — and his alone. He wanted to share them with the public.

He could have donated them to the Library of Congress, but Rumsey had even bigger ideas: the Internet. “With (some) institutions, the access you can get is not nearly as much as the Internet might provide,” Rumsey told Wired more than a decade ago. “I realized I could reach a much larger audience with the Internet.”

Bit by bit, Rumsey digitized his collection — up to 38,000 maps and other items — along the way developing software that made it easier for people to explore the maps and 3D objects such as globes online. Today, the Digital Public Library of America announced that Rumsey’s collection would now be available through the DPLA portal, placing the maps into the deeper and broader context of the DPLA’s other holdings.

“I am very excited to have my digital library of historical maps added to the DPLA,” Rumsey was quoted as saying in a DPLA press release. “Maps tell stories that complement texts, images, and other resources found in the growing DPLA library.”

McLemee: The Digital Public Library of America Has More Work to Do

Last week we did a few posts on the launching of the Digital Public Library of America.  This is an incredible resource that provides books, images, historic records, and audiovisual materials to anyone with a computer and an Internet connection.  I highly recommend heading over to the site and poking around a bit.

All of the initial reviews of the DPLA have been glowing, but Scott McLemee, writing at Inside Higher Ed, thinks the site needs some more work. Here is a taste of his piece:

The library’s potential for assembling and integrating an incredible range of documents and knowledge is almost unimaginable. Excitement seems appropriate. But in describing my own impressions of DPLA, I want to be a little more qualified about the enthusiasm it inspires. Things are not nearly as far along as some comments have implied. This isn’t just naysaying. The site is currently in its beta version, and many of my points will probably be nullified in due course. But it’s better to be aware of some of the limitations beforehand than to visit the site expecting a digital Library of Alexandria…


…Continued thumbing through the catalog demonstrated how early a stage DPLA is in accumulating its collection – and how much fine-tuning its search engine may need.
Entering “Benjamin Franklin,” you get more than 1,400 results. Out of the first 30, all but 3 are documents (usually death certificates) for people named after the inventor and statesman. A toolbar on the left allows the user to refine the search in various ways – but the most useful filter, by subject, is at the very bottom and easy to overlook.

It was encouraging to get 17 results when searching for Phyllis Wheatley, the first published African-American poet, but 15 of them led to records from the 1940 census, by which point she had been dead the better part of 150 years. Only one of the other two was at all germane to her as historical figure. The other concerned an Atlanta branch of the Young Women’s Christian Association named in her honor.

More on the Digital Public Library of America

Over at The Atlantic, Rebecca Rosen interviews Dan Cohen, the new director of the Digital Public Library of America. (You may recall our recent post on the opening of the DPLA).

Here is a taste of the interview:

What is the Digital Public Library of America? What do you hope it will become? 

The idea behind the Digital Public Library of America is fairly simple actually — it is the attempt, really a large-scale attempt, to knit together America’s archives, libraries, and museums, which have a tremendous amount of content — all forms of human expression, from images and photographs, to artwork, to published material and unpublished material, like archival and special collections. We want to bring that all together in one place.

One big part of the DPLA will be its brand-new website, DP.LA — a nice, short URL. It works great on mobile phones too. It’s a modern, responsive website.

But also, by bringing them together, I think we’re also in a sense making those collections much more usable. When people come to the website, first of all, they’ll be able to find a lot of content that exists out in smaller archives and collections much more easily. They won’t have to go to hundreds or thousands of websites to find this amazing, unique scanned content from America’s heritage and, indeed, from the world’s — because we have people from all over the world here, and archival content from all over the world.

So there will be a real element of discovery — both directed discovery and also coming across new things through serendipity, things you might not encounter otherwise.

There will also be very innovative ways to search and scan across these collections. For the first time users will be able to actually browse an archive’s collections using a map. We’re using Open Street Map and people will be able to zoom into particular localities and see what any collection might have about that particular locality — whether it’s a big collection like the Smithsonian or the National Archives or a very small county historical society. 

Read the rest here.

I spent some time at the DPLA and found it to be very user friendly.  I found some documents from the New York Public Library collection that I did not know existed, although the link to the images kept taking me to a library web page about the collection, rather than the actual scanned image of the document.  I also found some really cool images that might be useful for the Greenwich Tea Burning project

I know I will be spending a lot of time at the DPLA in the future.  The option to save items and searches will be particularly useful once I start to dig more deeply into the collections.

The Digital Public Library of America

It launched about an hour ago.

Jonathan Wilson tells us more.  Here is a taste of his post at The Junto:

At noon Eastern today, the Digital Public Library of America will launch a beta version of its “discovery portal,”  allowing visitors to search through materials at a wide array of participating institutions.

This is the product of more than two years of work, managed by the Berkman Center for Internet & Society but involving representatives from dozens of other scholarly organizations (and funded by the Sloan Foundation, the Arcadia Fund, the NEH, the Mellon Foundation, and the Soros Foundation).

The DPLA relies on other organizations for more than support; for the time being, at least, it supports their digitization projects more than the other way around. The DPLA is not a factory or storehouse for scanned books and images, but a guide to collections maintained elsewhere. And the disgraceful snarl of American copyright law still impedes efforts to make even classic works produced by long-dead authors available freely to the public. Furthermore, libraries and publishers have reason to be concerned about their survival prospects in this age of ephemeral text. So the future of the DPLA as a public alternative to private control of the cultural commons is uncertain.

When I get some time I will poke around at the DPLA and perhaps do a post or two about it.  I think this is going to be an incredible resource.

National Archives To Donate 1.2 Million Digital Objects to Digital Public Library of America

National Archives

Last week we did a post on Dan Cohen‘s move from the Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University to the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), where he will serve as Executive Director.

Yesterday it was announced that the National Archives will donate 1.2 million digital objects–from founding documents to World War II Posters–to the DPLA’s first project at the Boston Public Library.  Here is a taste of the press release:

Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero announced today that the National Archives, as a leading content provider to the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), will help launch its first pilot project.

The DPLA is a large-scale, collaborative project across government, research institutions, museums, libraries and archives to build a digital library platform to make America’s cultural and scientific history free and publicly available anytime, anywhere, online through a single access point. 

The DPLA is working with several large digital content providers – including the National Archives and Harvard University – to share digitized content from their online catalogs for the project’s two-year Digital Hubs Pilot Project.  This pilot project is scheduled to launch on April 18-19, 2013 at the Boston Public Library, which will host an array of festivities, including presentations and interactive exhibits showcasing content from the DPLA’s content partners.  The DPLA will include 1.2 million digital copies from the National Archives catalog, including our nation’s founding documents, photos from the Documerica Photography Project of the 1970’s, World War II posters, Mathew Brady Civil War photographs, and documents that define our human and civil rights. 

Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero said: “I am proud of the work done collaboratively by the National Archives and participating institutions to make the vision of the Digital Public Library of America a reality. The ability to seamlessly search across the collections of major cultural, historical, and research institutions improves democracy through education, and furthers the principles of Open Government.” 

“One of the distinctive features of the DPLA is that it has developed as a true public-private partnership,” said John Palfrey, chair of the DPLA Board of Directors.  “The active and engaged support of the Archivist of the United States and the National Archives as an institution has been a crucial building block in a truly national platform for libraries and digital materials.  We are deeply fortunate to have the opportunity to work with Mr. Ferriero and his team and excited about this announcement today.” 

The Digital Public Library of America 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 the 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.  More information is online at