LC Labs Letter: December 2020

December 2020

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

Our Projects

Can the Library of Congress Labs team interview you?

Would you or someone you know be willing to (virtually) sit down with us for a 1-on-1 interview? We are looking for people to take part in user research who use digital resources like historical photos, books, documents, newspapers, music, video, maps, data or websites in the following activities:

  • Formal and informal education
  • Activism and community leadership
  • Data journalism, communications or media
  • Undergraduate creative / art studies

The schedule for the interviews will be based on what works best for the participants.

If you know anyone who can help with this research, please get in touch with us by emailing [email protected] or go directly to this sign up form that is managed by our contractor, Digirati.  Thank you very much for your help!

That’s a wrap! Staff Innovator detail comes to a close 

As Born Digital Access Now!, the 2020 Staff Innovator project, came to a close, the team reflected on some of what we learned from this collaboration. Though it may seem counter-intuitive for a project with “digital” in the title, a lot of these lessons are driven and informed by people rather than technology.

If you’re interested in staff exchanges, born digital access, or even just in how LC Labs approaches our work, read about it in this recently published blog post on the Signal.

In conversation with Innovator in Residence Courtney McLellan

The design of 2021 Innovator in Residence Courtney McClellan’s Speculative Annotation experiment begins in the classroom. In a recent post on the Signal Blog, Courtney interviewed educator Ashley Wood about how her high school photography class uses annotation to analyze and engage in visual storytelling.

Courtney will continue to work with classes through the remainder of the school year, so if you are interested in sharing information about your own teaching practices, please email us at [email protected].

Select hits from a year of LC Labs Letters!

This month marks the last issue of 2020 and the one-year anniversary of the LC Labs Letter. To celebrate, we’ve included some of our most popular updates from past issues spanning January to November 2020:

We’d love to hear how you’re enjoying the newsletter and how we could do better. You can reach us at [email protected] anytime.


  • The Library released four new sets of “free to use” pictures! These curated sets feature items from the Library’s digital collections that are free to use and reuse. The Library believes that this content is either in the public domain, has no known copyright, or has been cleared by the copyright owner for public use. They’re grouped according to a common theme; the latest released themes are: “Shoes,” “Games,“It’s Raining Umbrellas” and “Coffee or Tea.” 
  • We co-authored an article about putting Newspaper Navigator in the hands of Library users with 2020 Innovator Ben Lee! We had fun reflecting on how we worked with collections experts to make machine learning more accessible to the public. Check it out for an overview of the project and some behind-the-scenes details about our process.
  • Wayne State University’s Electronic Music Ensemble used Citizen DJ for one of their recent experimental performances.
  • Stanford computer science student Miranda Lin Lee trained a machine learning algorithm on digitized newspapers pulled from the Library’s Chronicling America API. The algorithm learned what newspaper pages are “supposed” to look like and created a new set of surrealist ”Nonsense Newspapers”. Do you think the computers got it right?

To subscribe to the monthly LC Labs Letter, visit //

For more information about LC Labs, visit us at

Questions? Contact LC Labs at [email protected]


An Archivist’s Perspective on Legacy Files

In this post, 2020 Staff Innovator Chad Conrady discusses his area of expertise, emulation, which imitates older operating systems in order to open outdated or legacy files that are no longer operable with contemporary operating systems or software.


Analyzing the Born-Digital Archive

Kathleen O’Neill is a 2020 Staff Innovator with LC Labs and a Senior Archivist in the Manuscript Division at the Library of Congress. In this post, she discusses her analysis of the various file formats in the Manuscript Division’s born-digital holdings.

Citizen DJ at the virtual National Book Festival

This post was originally featured on the Minerva’s Kaleidoscope blog for kids and families. We’re excited and grateful to be able to re-share about this opportunity to experience Citizen DJ at the virtual National Book Festival next week!

Five Questions for Will Elsbury, Project Leader for the Election 2014 Web Archive

The following is a guest post from Michael Neubert, a Supervisory Digital Projects Specialist at the Library of Congress. Since the U.S. national elections of 2000, the Library of Congress has been harvesting the web sites of candidates for elections for Congress, state governorships and the presidency. These collections  require considerable manual effort to identify […]

Hybrid Born-Digital and Analog Special Collecting: Megan Halsband on the SPX Comics Collection

Every year, The Small Press Expo in Bethesda, Md brings together a community of alternative comic creators and independent publishers. With a significant history of collecting comics, it made sense for the Library of Congress’ Serial and Government Publications Division and the Prints & Photographs Division to partner with SPX to build a collection documenting […]

Content Matters Interview: The Montana State Library, Part Two

This is part two of the Content Matters interview series interview with Diane Papineau, a geographic information systems analyst at the Montana State Library. Part one was yesterday, December 5, 2013. Butch: What are some of the biggest digital preservation and stewardship challenges you face at the Montana State Library? Diane: The two biggest challenges […]

Content Matters Interview: The Montana State Library, Part One

In this installment of the Content Matters interview series of the National Digital Stewardship Alliance Content Working Group we’re featuring an interview with Diane Papineau, a geographic information systems analyst at the Montana State Library. Diane was kind enough to answer questions, in consultation with other MSL staff and the state librarian, Jennie Stapp, about […]

Content Matters: An Interview with Edward McCain of the Reynolds Journalism Institute

For this installment of the Content Matters interview series of the National Digital Stewardship Alliance Content Working Group I interviewed Edward McCain, digital curator of journalism at the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute and the University of Missouri Libraries. The University of Missouri Libraries joined the NDSA this past summer. Ashenfelder: What is RJI’s relationship to […]

Content Matters Interview: A Third Man for Musical Preservation

In this installment of the Content Matters interview series of the National Digital Stewardship Alliance Content Working Group we’re featuring an interview with Ben Blackwell, the “psychedelic stooge” at  Third Man Records. Third Man’s owner, musician Jack White, has a deep and abiding interest in musical anthropology in all its forms, while being strongly forward-thinking […]