Volume 29, Number 4, Winter 2007


Digital Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Vivien Goldman President, Digital Commonwealth

The Digital Commonwealth is a portal to digital assets held in Massachusetts cultural institutions, including libraries, archives, museums, research institutions, and historical societies. The portal provides researchers and patrons with a single point of entry to search or browse images, manuscripts, historical documents, and materials across member institutions' digital collections, enhancing access and retrieval of information across the state. Membership in the Digital Commonwealth provides visibility and exposure of its members' collections and ensures that the state's rich cultural and historical heritage is made more easily available.

The Digital Commonwealth's goal is to promote the creation of digital library resources by encouraging cultural institutions to adopt this new technology and transform the traditional means of access from local archives and libraries to a worldwide audience. To that end, it provides guidelines and information on standards and best practices to its members as well as information on scanning, digitization technology, and preservation issues of both original and surrogate objects.

The project was made possible by a federal Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners to the Boston Public Library (BPL). The grant allowed BPL to develop the portal and repository, hire technical specialists, and design the logo and portal interface. During the first year, a committee concentrated on outreach efforts by speaking to nearly twenty organizations in the state, explaining the project and encouraging them to become founding members. It also concentrated on developing the portal and deciding on standards and protocols for participation. As of September 2007, there were thirty-one founding members of the Digital Commonwealth, ranging from regional library systems to small independent libraries. The portal has been launched, and a repository is available to house collections of some of the contributing members. A focus for the upcoming year is to ensure the project's sustainability.

In October 2007, the Digital Commonwealth hosted its second annual conference on all aspects of planning, executing, and maintaining a digital collection, including copyright issues, scanning and image capture standards, preservation, and what's new in digital libraries in the future. We fully expect that this project will generate cooperation and collaboration between cultural organizations, such as schools and museums, and that as we grow over the next year, the Digital Commonwealth will become increasingly valuable as more and more institutions join in this statewide effort to provide patrons with worldwide access to the rich cultural resources held in our state's repositories.

Visit Digital Commonwealth. For more information, contact Vivien Goldman.