Boston Public Library Digitizing Cultural Treasures

In this digital age, pretty much everything you need is a click away. As libraries embrace new technologies, cultural treasures are getting their chance to shine.

The Boston Public Library's collection - 23 million volumes strong - has been steadily making its way online, thanks to a renewed partnership with Digital Commonwealth.

"Ultimately, we are building a resource not just for the libraries across the Commonwealth but for the people of Massachusetts and beyond," said Tom Blake, the digital projects manager for the Boston Public Library.

Blake has been working with the non-profit Digital Commonwealth for 10 years to digitize cultural treasures from institutions across the state, making them accessible to all.

The digitization process unfolds in a space tucked away inside the Central Library in Copley Square. Collections go under a digital camera and make their way to a computer where metadata is recorded. From there, users can go to Digital Commonwealth's website ( to search items from 250 institutions across the Bay State.

"It needs to be well-described, it needs to be searchable, findable. So for us, part of this is about having the portal or platform accessible on the web to get at these materials," said David Leonard, Interim President of the Boston Public Library.

The materials are wide-ranging, from prints by artist Thomas Nason to Helen Keller's bathing suit and a collection of butterflies. The project has created a high-resolution treasure trove for students, researchers, and the curious to explore on their computer screen.

"I think this is part of the library's continuing embrace of new technologies and finding new ways to serve the public," Leonard said.

The Central Library is also looking ahead to this summer when it will finish a major renovation. The new features include a space for digital projects that has interactive displays for patrons to access collections.

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