LC Labs is Celebrating Five Years!

collage of labs experiments with banner reading celebrating 5 years of LC Labs

As the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States, the Library of Congress has celebrated hundreds of birthdays and even more milestones than we can count.

In 1966, Library programmer Henriette Avram piloted the game-changing Machine-Readable Cataloging Record (MARC). 50 years later, computers had completely revolutionized librarianship and public access – coincidentally, 2016 also marked the first year the Library’s website, loc.gov, surpassed 100 million visits. The Library celebrated 200 years of serving Congress in 2000, commemorated the centennial of the Congressional Research Service in 2014, and just this month, recognized the 10th birthday of Congress.gov, which receives over 3 million unique visitors each month.

Here on The Signal we’re honoring a smaller, but equally exciting, Library anniversary – five years of LC Labs!

In September 2017, the Library established a group of innovation specialists to support creative uses of the digital collections. LC Labs works with colleagues around the institution to help throw open the Library’s treasure chest, connect more deeply with researchers and the public, and cultivate a culture of continuous learning. Over the past five years, we’ve done just that!

Through research, experimentation, and collaborations with other federal agencies and cultural heritage groups, some of the Library’s brightest ideas have become vivid reality. The original Library of Congress API has evolved into three distinct services and an array of machine-readable access methods. The early Beyond Words crowdsourcing pilot has grown into By the People, now a permanent Library program with thousands of dedicated volunteers. The efforts of the Library’s very first Innovator in Residence, data artist Jer Thorp, now sit in company with ideas from Brian Foo, Benjamin Lee, and Courtney McClellan. And numerous other investigations have explored machine learning, speech-to-text transcription, emulation environments, and other ways of using technology to help make the collections more available.

Our team is grateful for all the opportunities we’ve had to bring these challenges to the Library, learn with our colleagues, and support the Library in building toward an increasingly digital future.

We’re also especially thankful to you! Your support and insights over the years have kept us informed about related work and made sharing about our efforts even more enjoyable.

We’re celebrating our anniversary by looking back at some of our most illuminating research and collaborations since 2017. Below, we’ve selected just a few of our favorite blog posts to highlight the breadth and variety of ideas and experiments LC Labs has engaged in over the last five years.

Join us for a trip down memory lane!

2017

2018

2019

2020

2021

2022

There are many more posts showcasing LC Labs’ work with Innovators in Residence as well as guides to digital scholarship, the loc.gov API, born digital archives, datasets, and the digital collections. We invite you explore them all, right here on The Signal!

An Introduction to Born Digital Collections at the Manuscript Division, or How to Cross the Equator

The following guest post by Josh Levy, Historian of Science and Technology in the Library’s Manuscript Division, is part two of a series. You can find Part 1 of the series, “Doing History with Born Digital Files: the Rhoda Métraux and Edward Lorenz Papers,” posted on The Signal. Archives can’t just collect physical objects anymore. […]

Computing Cultural Heritage in the Cloud: Expert Researchers Share Their Outcomes

LC Labs’ Computing Cultural Heritage in the Cloud (CCHC) initiative explores pathways for the Library to deliver its digital collections at scale, using a cloud computing environment. You can read more in previous posts about the initiative. Earlier this year, LC Labs worked with three research fellows in digital history, digital art history, and software librarianship […]

Computing Cultural Heritage in the Cloud: An Interview with Victoria Scheppele

We are delighted to introduce Victoria (Tori) Scheppele, a Library Technician in the Prints & Photographs Division who has joined us temporarily to work on the Computing Cultural Heritage in the Cloud (CCHC) initiative. The CCHC initiative is supported by a generous grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Centered in LC Labs, the project […]

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a…derivative dataset!

This post describes a collaboration between LC Labs member Eileen J. Manchester and Peter DeCraene, the Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow to answer the question: “what would it mean to treat a dataset as a primary source?”

Sparking the Datamagination: 2021 Digital Strategy Summer Intern Design Sprint part II

This is an interview with Maria Capecchi, Abigail Tick, and Joshua Ortiz Baco, three of the seven students that joined our team during the summer of 2021. As a small group, they worked together to better understand the Newspaper Navigator data set with the needs of undergraduate students in mind.

Next Slide Please: 2021 Digital Strategy Summer Intern Design Sprint part I

This is an interview with Emily Zerrenner, Jodanna Domond, Luke Borland, and Darshni Patel, four of the seven students that joined our team during the summer of 2021. As a small group, they worked together to better understand the Library’s Web Archives with the needs of researchers and data visualization artists in mind.