Google Cultural Institute could be part of a national digital library

Imagine a public library that focused on providing access to digital versions of books, photographs, historical records, audio recordings and videos to anyone with access to the Internet.  The library’s mission would be to efficiently store a huge amount of digital content and make it easily searchable and accessible.

There is an organization trying to create such a library known as the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA).  The idea is that universities, museums, libraries and anyone else with historic or cultural data would have a repository for storing their digitized content and sharing it with the world.

Google seems to think such a library is a great idea too.  That’s why they launched the Google Cultural Institute in 2010.  The mission of the site is to “help preserve and promote culture online”.

A quick visit to the Cultural Institute’s website reveals an immersive experience.  The site showcases historical and cultural collections of pictures, art, videos and documents that one would expect to see in prestigious museums.  Visitors can search the site using names, places, events or dates.  For example, searching for “1941” brings up some pictures of Hitler in Germany and Poland as well as a photo of Margot and Anne Frank.

Yesterday, Google announced that they expanded their cultural database by adding 42 new exhibitions.  The new online exhibitions cover Apartheid, D-Day and the Holocaust through a collection of letters, photographs and videos.  Google partnered with 17 organizations to bring the latest exhibitions online.

The Google Cultural Institute is a perfect example of what the Digital Public Library of America could look like.  It’s a technology-focused organization that specializes in efficiently digitizing, storing, searching and displaying content from a wide variety of sources on a single website.  Too bad it’s a private company and not a national public library.