Library of Congress gets grant to experiment with digital collections as data

A $1 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation which will go to support the Computing Cultural Heritage in the Cloud project.
The Library of Congress' main reading room. (Jiuguang Wang / Flickr)

The Library of Congress has long invested in digitizing its massive collection of historical documents. Now, the library’s innovation-focused LC Labs team wants to explore how these digital collections can be used as big data.

The library recently won a $1 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation which will go to support its Computing Cultural Heritage in the Cloud project. Through this project, the team will “test a cloud-based approach for interacting with digital collections as data.”

“As technology advances, we envision a future in which all users — researchers, artists, students and more – are only limited by the questions they can think to ask; where scale, complexity, uniqueness, and speed are aligned to support their goals and result in fundamentally transformed ways of understanding the world around us,” Kate Zwaard, the library’s Director of Digital Strategy, said in a statement.

LC Labs plans to collaborate on the project with IT experts at the library and outside researchers. It also intends to hire two Digital Scholarship Librarians.


The project aligns with the library’s most recent Digital Strategy, which commits to experimenting with emerging technologies. “In addition to the library’s ongoing investments in IT modernization, we will encourage a culture of continuous learning and capacity for innovation,” the strategy, which was released in October 2018, states. “We will engage with new technologies and communities.”

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