MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – Middlebury has been named the lead in a new grant designed to contribute digital content from Vermont libraries to a national digital archive known as the Digital Public Library of America. DPLA brings together diverse collections from throughout the country and makes the materials freely available throughout the world. The grant, which is approximately $35,000, is administered by the Vermont Department of Libraries through the federal Library Services and Technology Act.

“We’re excited to lead this new venture,” said Rebekah Irwin, director and curator of Middlebury Special Collections and Archives. “Open access to a wide range of materials through American libraries has been a central part of our culture.”

Six Vermont institutions will participate in the pilot phase of the Green Mountain Digital Archives, including Middlebury, The Bixby Memorial Free Library in Vergennes, Brooks Memorial Library in Brattleboro, and the libraries of Norwich University, the University of Vermont, and St. Michael’s College. More libraries, archives, and museums across the state will be invited to join after the pilot phase.

“Our ambition is to create a sustainable financial and governance model for participation, a technical infrastructure, and an inspiration for Vermont’s cultural institutions to share, worldwide, the collective and cultural histories stored in our buildings,” said Irwin. Irwin will serve as project manager and principal investigator, communicating with Vermont institutions and serving as the key contact with DPLA.

Initially, the collections will not be publicly available as the group tests infrastructure, technical software, and governance structures that will allow the Vermont archive to succeed.

Each of the six contributing members brings a diverse mix of content to the project. Middlebury’s contribution, for example, includes 10,000 items drawn from College collections of rare and unique books, postcards, photographs, maps, illustrations, and manuscripts from the holdings of the College archives, the Helen Hartness Flanders Archive, Rare Books and Manuscripts, and the historic Vermont Collection. The Bixby Library in Vergennes offers 788 images depicting town history back to the Civil War. The Brooks Library will contribute 1,300 silver gelatin photos from the Porter Thayer collection, depicting the poor, rural, yet close-knit communities of Vermont in the early 1900s.

Irwin says the project should be completed by fall of 2017.