August 24, 2016 Innovations in Big Data and Digital Humanities

Library Hosts Gathering of Digital Experts to Address Opportunities for Research, Access

Press Contact: Sheryl Cannady (202) 707-6456
Public Contact: Kate Zwaard (202) 707-5242
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With millions of digitized and born-digital materials in its vast collections, the Library of Congress is developing new methods of collecting, preserving and making data more accessible to the public. To address many of the contemporary questions and issues facing data scholarship and digital humanities, the Library’s newly formed National Digital Initiatives Division (NDI) will convene a cadre of experts in the field who are preserving digital collections and making them accessible using innovative technology.

The symposium—“Collections as Data: Stewardship and Use Models to Enhance Access”—will be held 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 27 in the Coolidge Auditorium on the first floor of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First Street, S.E., in Washington, D.C. The event is free and open to the public. Advance registration is required. For a complete program of the day’s events, visit The conference also will be live-streamed on the Library’s YouTube channel.

“Technology gives users of the Library’s collections the power to explore them in new ways,” said Kate Zwaard, NDI chief. “Through such methods as visualization, text analysis and mapping, we can question and create knowledge that previously wasn’t possible to uncover. This symposium will examine how collections as data are created and used, and how libraries are supporting the emerging fields of digital humanities and data scholarship at large.”

“Part of the Library’s mission is to make its unique resources of greater benefit to Congress, the American people and the world,” said Jane McAuliffe, the director of National and International Outreach. “We’re excited to host this event and eager to foster innovation for the benefit of increasing access and use of our digital collections.”

Among the participants using digital collections to expand human understanding is digital artist Jer Thorp, keynote speaker and co-founder of The Office for Creative Research. Opening the symposium, he will provide an overview of his organization’s efforts to make big data sets more accessible and connected to the human experience. In his first appearance on Capitol Hill, Thorp will discuss visual ways of solving data challenges.

Other speakers will highlight efforts in the cultural-heritage and digital-humanities communities to enhance access to digital collections, help develop best practices and address emerging issues in the field of data scholarship. The event will conclude with a look toward the future with “Collections as Data: Conditions of Possibility” by Thomas Padilla, the curator of humanities data at the University of California Santa Barbara.

Other participants include:

  • Maciej Ceglowski, founder of Pinboard
  • Bergis Jules, co-principal investigator and community lead of the Documenting the Now Project and university archivist at the University of California, Riverside
  • Nicole Saylor, head of the American Folklife Center’s Archive of Folk Culture
  • Marisa Parham, professor of English at Amherst College and director of the Five
  • College Digital Humanities Project
  • Trevor Muñoz, assistant dean for Digital Humanities Research, University of Maryland Libraries and associate director of the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities
  • Harriett Green, English and Digital Humanities librarian at the University of Illinois Library
  • Elizabeth Lorang, associate professor of libraries at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Libraries
  • Ricardo Punzalan, assistant professor of Archival Studies at the University of Maryland College of Information Studies
  • Shana Kimball, manager of Public Programs and Outreach at NYPL (New York Public Library) Labs
  • Leah Weinryb Grohsgal, senior program officer at the National Endowment for the Humanities
  • Deborah Thomas, team leader for Digital Projects at the Library of Congress
  • Matthew Weber, assistant professor in the School of Communication and Information at Rutgers University

At the event, the Library will highlight its new digital initiative, NDI, which was created to increase awareness of the Library’s digital innovations and develop new uses of its digital resources by enabling digital scholarship, creating fellowships for library technologists and serving as a catalyst for advances in interdisciplinary research and digital innovation.

The Library has made available online millions of digitized and born-digital materials never before accessible. They include more than 10 million pages of historic newspapers, 1.2 million prints and photographs, one-of-a-kind collections such as the papers of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Rosa Parks, Carl Sagan, Jackie Robinson and many more books, maps, sound recordings, moving images, as well as archived websites representing the world’s cultural heritage from ancient texts to present day born-digital content.

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, access the official site for U.S. federal legislative information at, and register creative works of authorship at


PR 16-140
ISSN 0731-3527