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Photos, Oral Histories, Ephemera, and more from     

DC Public Library Special Collections     


Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use something I've found in Dig DC?

The copyright status of photographs and audiovisual material is often difficult to determine because it is affected by such things as the employment status of the creator, the date material was created, the date material was first published, and what information accompanied the first publication. We have not determined copyright status for all materials in Dig DC, though ownership of copyright by DC Public Library and public domain status is noted if known.

DC Public Library is not responsible for either determining the copyright status of the items in our collection or for securing copyright permission. While use copies of Dig DC materials are available for download, researchers must exercise appropriate caution in using those materials. Possession of images, audio or video from DC Public Library Special Collections does not constitute permission to use it.

When using our materials under the fair use as defined by U.S. Copyright Law, please complete and return our Fair Use Statement.

The library charges users fees for commercial use of reproductions in order to support the maintenance of the collections. Users must notify Special Collections staff of their intent to publish of our images and fill out a Permission to Publish form, even if they are not charged for use. Use prices are based on the User Fee Schedule.

What is Dig DC's Takedown Policy?

DC Public Library seeks to act responsibly and mitigate legal risk in creating online access to Special Collections materials. However, despite our best intentions in the selection of digital materials for Dig DC, we recognize that mistakes do occur. Please contact us directly if you think Dig DC materials may violate your copyright ownership or privacy rights. We take all such reports seriously.

Upon receipt of a request to take down material from this website, we will immediately remove the material in question. Requests will then be assessed by a review panel who will consider each request on its merits. The panel will aim to respond to the request in a timely manner, but may require time to seek external advice where appropriate.

How should I cite Dig DC materials?

Please use the citation: DC Public Library Special Collections, [Collection Name] and include a link to Dig DC if the citation is online.

Does everything in Dig DC belong to DC Public Library?

The majority of the items in Dig DC are owned by DC Public Library. There are some exceptions in the case of partnerships with individuals or other institutions, as with the Willard R. Ross Postcard Collection, which includes digitized photographs from the Washington Historical Society and private collectors. The ownership of all Dig DC items is indicated in descriptive metadata on the item page.

How do items and collections get into Dig DC?

In order to become part of Dig DC, analog materials must be selected, digitized, described, and imported into CONTENTdm. When Special Collections staff members select collections for digitization, their decisions are based on available funding, the uniqueness of the material, the material's usefulness to researchers, and (often) the need for preservation of deteriorating originals. Once digitized, the materials must be described and imported into CONTENTdm. Born-digital materials may need to be migrated to more web-friendly formats and then must also be cataloged before import.

What metadata practices does Dig DC follow?

We map most of our fields to Dublin Core. Our subjects come from a combination of the Library of Congress Thesaurus for Graphic Materials and Authorities.

The coordinates captured in our spatial location data are gathered mostly using Mashup Soft's Latitude Longitude Locator. GIS data for historical materials is created by catalogers and intends to describe the geographic location of the central feature of an image. It is intended to give researchers a general sense of location and cannot be claimed exact or objective.

How can I get involved?

Internship opportunities with Special Collections can be found on the DCPL website. To volunteer, contact and let them know you're interested in working with Special Collections! If you are interested in donating historical materials to our collection, please contact You can also support the DC Public Library and DCPL Special Collections financially by contributing to the DCPL Foundation.

Does Dig DC have an API?

Dig DC system provider CONTENTdm includes an application programming interface (API) for developers to use to pull Dig DC collection information and items for non-commercial uses. Documentation on using the Dig DC API, including example scripts, can be found at

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