World Digital Library available free on Web

UNESCO and 32 partner institutions, this week, launched the World Digital Library, a Web site that features cultural materials from libraries and archives from around the world.
The site – located at www.wdl.org – includes manuscripts, maps, rare books, films, sound recordings, prints and photographs. It provides unrestricted public access, free of charge, to this material. Billington first proposed the creation of a World Digital Library (WDL) to UNESCO in 2005, remarking that such a project could “have the salutary effect of bringing people together by celebrating the depth and uniqueness of different cultures in a single global undertaking.”

Matsuura welcomed the proposal as a “great initiative that will help to bridge the knowledge divide, promote mutual understanding and foster cultural and linguistic diversity.”

In addition to promoting international understanding, the project aims to expand the volume and variety of cultural content on the Internet, provide resources for educators, scholars, and general audiences and narrow the digital divide within and between countries by building capacity in partner countries.

The World Digital Library functions in seven languages – Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish – and includes content in more than 40 languages. Browse and search features facilitate cross-cultural and cross-temporal exploration on the site.

Descriptions of each item and videos, with expert curators speaking about selected items, provide context for users and are intended to spark curiosity and encourage both students and the general public to learn more about the cultural heritage of all countries.

The World Digital Library was developed by a team at the Library of Congress. Institutions contributing to the WDL include national libraries and institutions in Brazil, Egypt, China, France, Iraq, Israel, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, the Netherlands, Qatar, Serbia, South Africa, Sweden, Uganda, and the United Kingdom.