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Digital Scholarship at the Library of Congress: A Research Guide

This guide provides information about the many ways to access digital materials for scholarly research, classroom instruction, creative practice, family history, civic engagement, connection to community, exploration of hobbies or passions, and more.

Introduction

This research guide provides information about ways to access digital materials at the Library of Congress. The instructions in this guide can be used to access digital materials for purposes including, but not limited to, scholarly research, classroom instruction, creative practice, family history, civic engagement, connection to community, exploration of hobbies or passions, and more.

This guide also aggregates resources related to machine-readable datasets, the computational use of the digital collections, and the kinds of digital scholarship enabled by this form of access. It addresses some frequently asked questions from Library patrons, outlines multiple ways to access digital Library of Congress materials, and ends with resources for further analysis or publication of findings.

Wherever possible, this guide points to existing documentation. If you haven't already, make sure to also check out these Library of Congress guides:

 

If you have a question that you do not see represented here, please contact us through our Ask a Librarian service.

Useful Definitions and Terms

The terms below can be useful in understanding digital scholarship and in the use of this guide.

  • Digital Scholarship
    The Library of Congress Digital Scholarship Working Group Report (PDF) defines digital scholarship as a general term for research that encompasses digital publishing, data visualization, the digital humanities, data science, and data analysis—all of which utilize digital collections, tools, and methods. Digital scholarship, broadly defined, uses digital content and tools to pursue research and interpretation with the goal of furthering knowledge. While this work can take many forms, one common strand is that it makes use of the powers of computing to do things that may not have been possible otherwise. From intensive analysis of data sets, to the collaborative sharing of resources or projects across networks, to experiments in artificial intelligence, digital scholarship takes advantage of the speed, scale and reach that computers bring to information technologies--both within and across traditional disciplinary boundaries. As the Library of Congress works to make its collections easily accessible for digital scholarship, users continue to find new and innovative ways to engage with this content.
  • Digital Collections
    Digital collections are items held by the Library available in digital formats; some of these are digitized, some are “born-digital,” and/or were originally created in a digital medium; digital collections span all media and can include text, audio, still images, or video.
  • Loc.gov
    The loc.gov website provides direct access to the digital material that is freely available online. It is different from the Library catalog, which allows users to search materials that are not digital or have more restrictive use.
  • Collections as Data
    A term used by various library and information professionals to refer to providing access to digital collections for computational use such as text mining, data visualization, mapping, image analysis, audio analysis, and network analysis. See the Santa Barbara Statement External for more information.
  • Digital Humanities
    The application of digital tools, methods, and approaches to the study of humanistic disciplines. See Jeffrey Schnapp, A Short Guide to the Digital Humanities (PDF). External
  • Application Programming Interface (API)
    APIs allow applications to communicate with each other; in its simplest terms, Perry Eising External describes it as “the code that governs the access point(s) for the server.”
Additional defined terms related to the management of digital collections can be found on the Library’s Digital Collections Management Compendium (DCMC).