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Library Receives $1M Mellon Grant to Experiment with Digital Collections as Big Data

Library Receives $1M Mellon Grant to Experiment with Digital Collections as Big Data
Funding to Allow LC Labs to Pilot Infrastructure for Digital Research at Scale

The Library of Congress has been awarded a $1 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for the Computing Cultural Heritage in the Cloud (CCHC) project, which will pilot ways to combine cutting edge technology and the collections of the largest library in the world, to support digital research at scale.

“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,” said Kate Zwaard, the Library’s director of digital strategy. “We’re excited that the Mellon Foundation has agreed to help us explore how to make our vision a reality.”
Since 1993, the Library of Congress has invested heavily in digitizing collections and making them available online for everyone to use. Today, the Library’s digital collections comprise a treasure trove of data whose research potential is only beginning to be realized. LC Labs — the Library’s digital innovation team — is now looking forward to how the Library, and other cultural heritage institutions, can free huge digital collections for modern computational research.

With the grant support, the LC Labs team will test a cloud-based approach for interacting with digital collections as data. In collaboration with subject matter experts and IT specialists at the Library, LC Labs will invite a cohort of research experts to experiment with solutions to problems that can only be explored at scale. This effort will help produce models for supporting cloud-based research computing, and will make the costs and possibilities of this work more transparent to the broader cultural heritage community.
Experiments like this are a key element of the Library’s Digital Strategy. Within the five-year plan to transform access and digital services at the Library, priority is given to sharing collections as broadly as possible. In addition to growing the Library’s digital collections, the Library will promote and enable all lawful uses of its digital collections, including those using emerging styles of research. The CCHC project will enable the Library to realize its new vision “to connect all Americans to the Library of Congress” by providing a mechanism to build a user-centered access model for computation.

This is the second major Mellon Foundation Grant awarded to the Library this year. In February 2019 the Library received a $540,000 grant to evaluate the physical health of the national collection of books in American research libraries and to guide their archive retention and preservation decisions.

The LC Labs team enables the Library’s Digital Strategy to support digital transformation at the Library of Congress. Through experiments, fellowships, and collaborations, the Labs team explores emerging styles of research and ways to maximize the use of Library content in the 21st Century.

The Library of Congress is the world’s largest library, offering access to the creative record of the United States — and extensive materials from around the world — both on-site and online. It is the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and the home of the U.S. Copyright Office. Explore collections, reference services and other programs and plan a visit at loc.gov; access the official site for U.S. federal legislative information at congress.gov; and register creative works of authorship at copyright.gov.

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