LC Labs Letter: September 2020

September 2020


A Monthly Roundup of News and Thoughts from the Library of Congress Labs Team


The Newspaper Navigator Search Interface has launched!

Breaking news! You can now visit //  to interactively browse over 1.5 million historic photos from the Chronicling America database of digitized newspapers. Innovator in Residence Ben Lee built this application to give users with all levels of technical experience a simplified and dynamic way to explore the Newspaper Navigator dataset, which he created by using a machine learning algorithm to identify and extract all the visual content in Chronicling America.

Ben’s search application for Newspaper Navigator allows site visitors to search for images by visual similarity. First, visitors enter a keyword and select relevant photos from the search results based on what they’re looking for. This trains a machine learning algorithm, called an “AI Navigator,” which then searches through the collection of images again but this time identifies only those that are visually similar to the ones selected by the user.

As a result, visitors to the site can reverse image search by training their very own machine learning “classifier” on the fly. Don’t take our word for it–visit the Newspaper Navigator experiment page to try it out yourself!


THIS WEEK: Citizen DJ Showcase premieres at the virtual National Book Festival

Reminder to tune in starting this Friday, September 25 to check out the Citizen DJ Showcase at the virtual National Book Festival. DJ Kid Koala will headline the Citizen DJ booth and feature his intercity beat tape featuring tracks made from creatives across the country using Library of Congress collections.

Select “Citizen DJ” under the “Explore the Library of Congress” tab to hear  these Citizen DJ sessions directly. Join the LIVE Q&A chat sessions to ask creator and Innovator in Residence Brian Foo questions about Citizen DJ and his work: Friday, September 25 from 3-5 pm and Saturday, September 26 from 2-4 pm.


Catch up on the Informal Virtual Audio Visual Summit

As you saw in last month’s newsletter, several units across the Library of Congress worked together to design and host an online conference for internal and external practitioners who work with audiovisual materials on September 15, 2020.

The event had over 400 attendees and over 30 speakers from all across the nation and world. In case you missed the impressive range of presentations, you can view the slides from all four thematic sessions (LC Share Out, Accessibility for All, A/V Makerspace, and Notes from the Field) on the LC Labs Event page: //

A captioned recording of the event will be available on this page in the coming weeks.


  • By the People celebrates its second anniversary! Read more about all this crowdsourced transcription program has been able to accomplish since its launch in 2018.
  • New from the Signal Blog: Digital Collections Specialist Marcus Nappier shares about how he learned to write a Format Description Document (FDD) in this recent post.
  • How are libraries and museums using visualizations to engage with digital collections? Recent Data Viz Society Nightingale journal post features LC Labs experiments among a list of projects from around the world!


Connect with The Signal at the 2020 National Book Festival

By the People at the National Book Festival Tomorrow, Friday 9/25, marks the beginning of the 20th Library of Congress National Book Festival! Representatives from across the Library will be hosting festival-goers via virtual booths, where visitors can connect with their favorite Library programs and collections. A member of the By the People team will be […]

Finding By the People Transcriptions in the Library’s Digital Collections

Today’s guest post is from Dr. Victoria Van Hyning, who served as a By the People Community Manager at the Library from 2018-2020. Starting in Fall 2020, she will be an Assistant Professor of Library Innovation at the University of Maryland iSchool, where she will continue her research on crowdsourcing, outreach, and inclusion.   The […]

Celebrating a year with By the People

Celebrating the 1 year anniversary of By the People, the Library of Congress crowdsourcing platform that engages volunteers to explore and connect to Library of Congress collections while enhancing searchability, readability, and research use of digitized collections. In the last year over 11,000 volunteers have registered and even more have contributed anonymously to complete transcription of over 31,000 digital collection pages, with 55,000 awaiting peer review.

Let’s go! Explore, transcribe, and tag at

This is a guest post from Lauren Algee, LC Labs Senior Innovation Specialist. Connect with Lauren and her fellow Community Managers Elaine Kamlley and Victoria Van Hyning via History Hub and on Twitter, as well as GitHub. What yet-unwritten stories lie within the pages of Clara Barton’s diaries, writings of Civil Rights pioneer Mary Church Terrell, or […]

New strategy! New crowd! New team!

Big news! We’ll launch a crowdsourcing program at the Library of Congress on October 24. We’re asking everyone to join us as we improve discovery and access across our diverse collections through transcription and tagging. The program is grounded in what we’ve learned through our previous experiences with participatory projects at the Library, including image […]