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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?

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