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From historic maps to photos to cookbooks: Check out PA’s new public digital content hub


Researchers, genealogists, developers rejoice! Pennsylvania now has its own online repository of digital images, text, maps, audio and visual files from libraries, archives, museums and special collections across the state.

Launched in April, PA Digital is home to over 130,000 records and growing. These documents cover “a rich array of topics covering the civil rights movement in Pennsylvania, early American and Civil War history, the Pittsburgh iron and steel industry, and much more,” says Karen Estlund, associate dean for technology and digital strategies at Penn State University Libraries.

For example, the collection of historic Sanborn Fire Insurance maps — contributed by Penn State — is a gift to local history buffs and town planners. Others may want to peruse the “Thomson consumer electronics employees’ cookbook”  from the Community Cookbook collection at Scranton Public Library’s Lackawanna Valley Digital Archives or Penn State’s Thomas W. Benson Political Protest Collection or curiosities like an undated penmanship study from the Zaner-Bloser collection at University of Scranton.

PA Digital also affords developers the opportunity to create custom mobile apps and widgets that aggregate, highlight and enhance the discovery of digital cultural heritage materials collections such as Culture Collage or Serendip-o-Matic.

The new hub is a partnership between the national Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) and a consortium of Pennsylvania public and academic libraries and cultural institutions including the State Library of PennsylvaniaTemple University, Penn State, the University of Pennsylvania, the Free Library of Philadelphia and others.

Launching PA Digital was a mighty feat, involving hundreds of hours of coding and alignment of metadata, but Estlund stresses that the work is not done and that more materials will be added over time. Later this summer, for example, Penn State will add more Pennsylvania maps and selected Civil War documents.

“The establishment of Pennsylvania’s Service Hub is just the beginning, as more of our unique collections are being added for the public’s open access,” says Barbara Dewey, dean of Penn State’s University Libraries and scholarly communications. “I look forward to learning about the many ways Pennsylvania’s collective presence in DPLA advances research and discovery.”

ELISE VIDER is news editor of Keystone Edge.

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