Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Digital Commonwealth?

The Digital Commonwealth is a web portal or gateway to digital assets hosted by Massachusetts cultural institutions. It is also a repository where an institution's content can be hosted. Cultural institutions include libraries, museums, historical societies, archives, research institutions, and other repositories of our cultural heritage.  

Who can join the Digital Commonwealth? 

Massachusetts cultural institutions who already have digitized collections or who have collections they wish to digitize are welcome to join the Digital Commonwealth, as are group sponsoring organizations such as regional networks and consortiums. These group sponsoring organizations work with their members to provide training and support (e.g., NMRLS,  Consortia, C/W MARS).

Why should you join the Digital Commonwealth?

Membership in the Digital Commonwealth will be beneficial to your researchers and patrons as well as your institution.  Benefits for patrons include a search tool that will allow researchers to search across the collections of many Massachusetts cultural organizations with a single query.  This search tool allows researchers to focus on their search within a single seamless integrated interface and aids researchers discover institutions or collections that were previously unknown to them.

Benefits for your institution include:

  • the ability to reach a wider audience than through an individual Web presence;
  • the opportunity to obtain consistent, reliable, and standardized information on best practices and standards for digitizing;
  • an increased potential for cooperation and collaboration among institutions;
  • an enhanced awareness of digital collections held by other complementary institutions;
  • and the possibility for “value-added” features – online exhibits, lesson plans, etc., using collection items from a variety of institutions without the need for borrowing, moving, or handling original items.

What does it cost to join the Digital Commonwealth?

FY2019 (July 2018-June 2019)

Volunteer Institution Membership (no paid staff)

  • Volunteer Institution introductory rate – $25
  • Volunteer Institution annual rate – $50

Regular Membership

  • Level 1 (annual budget up to $49,999) – $75
  • Level 2 (annual budget between $50k and $99k) – $100
  • Level 3 (annual budget between $100k and $499k) – $200
  • Level 4 (annual budget between $500k and $999k) – $350
  • Level 5 (annual budget between $1 million and $1.99 million) – $500
  • Level 6 (annual budget more than $2 million OR Group Sustaining Organizations) – $750

Note: “Annual budget” = the overall budget for your library and archives (materials and staff) or for entire organizations that lack a separate library and archives. Academic institutions should use the budget for all of their institution’s libraries and archives. Group sustaining organizations are networks that plan to work with and assist their own membership in joining Digital Commonwealth. 

How can my institution participate in the Digital Commonwealth?

There are several ways to participate:

Harvested Site

Institutions with existing digital collections and associated metadata that are compatible with the Digital Commonwealth's standards may be integrated into the portal so that search results will include their digital assets.  We will work with your institution to arrange for access to your metadata and digital collection.  This level of participation requires that an institution join the Digital Commonwealth as a Small Institutional Member or as a General Member. See fee schedule above.

Shared Repository
Institutions may participate through shared repositories which are compatible with Digital Commonwealth standards (such as NMRLS or C/W MARS).  We are working with other organizations to encourage formation of such repositories.  An institution that chooses to participate in the Digital Commonwealth via a shared repository will need to make technical, financial, and governance arrangements directly with the host of the shared repository.  This type of participation requires that the shared repository join the Digital Commonwealth as a Consortia Member. See fee schedule above.

Linked Site
Cultural institutions which host digital materials on the Web that are not compatible with the Digital Commonwealth's standards may still be listed as online resources.  A description of your digital collection and a link will be posted on the Digital Commonwealth portal. This level of participation requires that an institution join the Digital Commonwealth as a Small Institutional Member or as a General Member. See fee schedule above.
Read more to understand the basics of the technical implemenation and for information on the participation requirements.

How can I stay informed about, and participate in, the development of the Digital Commonwealth?

The Digital Commonwealth website ( and Digital Commonwealth blog ( contains the latest information about the project. 

How is the project governed?

Review the bylaws prepared by the Digital Commonwealth Board of Directors. If you are interested in participating on any of our committees, please contact us.

Where can I read overview information about digitization?

Please read the Getting Started with Digital Commonwealth web page. 

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