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Digital Public Library of America (DPLA): Using the DPLA

DPLA is a free, national digital library that provides access to primary and secondary sources from libraries, archives, and museums across the United States. This guide will highlight Primary Source Sets, and other materials that may be useful in instruc

Use DPLA for:

  • Finding primary sources for research
  • Exploring the history of your family
  • Browsing freely available ebooks
  • Discovering archival images of your hometown
  • Browsing curated exhibitions on nationally significant topics
  • Listening to oral histories detailing interesting lives
  • Surveying stunning historical maps
  • and more!

Search, Browse, Discover, Build

One strength of the DPLA is that it encourages more than one way to get to content. 


Like any modern web platform, a single search box opens the DPLA to easy and familiar interaction. A search for "Community College of Philadelphia" quickly returns 52 images. By searching other institutions, texts, images, sound files and even videos are displayed.


The portal to DPLA was constructed to utilize the variety of ways you might be interested in finding an item. The browsing features by map or timeline offer context built into your browsing experience. 



Curated exhibits of digital objects from different source institutions provide a deep understanding of the interconnectedness of history and heritage. Exhibit topics range from Activisim in the U.S., to American Theatre in the Great Depression, to Boston Sports Templates.

One of the first exhibits, and one highly recommended, is a co-curated venture between DPLA and Europeana, the digital library of European museums, libraries and archives. It is titled "Leaving Europe: A New Life in America," and visualizes the story of emigration during the 19th and 20th centuries.  


Beyond the portal to content, the DPLA offers itself as a platform for developers, coders, hackers and techno-venturers to build upon. Apps like Term vs. Term, built by Florida State University Art professor Owen Mundy, repurpose the technical details underneath the DPLA (metadata about the objects) and reorganize them in new, fun and interesting ways. 

Using Wikipedia often? There's a DPLA app for that! FindDPLA shows relevent DPLA content for Wikepdia articles you are looking at.

Inspired by serendipitous discovery? There's a DPLA app for that! Plug any block of text into Serendip-o-matic and it "automagically" searches key terms from the text across DPLA, Europeana, and Flickr Commons, returning photographs, documents, maps and more related to the text you fed it.

DPLA Attribution

Thank you to Micah Vandegrift, Florida State University, for the use of some of the content of this LibGuide.

Main Campus: 215-751-8394 | NERC Learning Commons: 215-972-6270 | NWRC Library: 215-496-6019 | WERC Learning Commons: 267-299-5848