Thursday, 23 April 2009

World Digital Library Goes Live

by Kathryn Hadley

The World Digital Library, a rich new online resource created by UNESCO, the United Nations’ cultural agency was launched on Tuesday (April 21st 2009). An opening ceremony was organised in Paris at the headquarters of UNESCO.

The new website is unique in providing free Internet access in multilingual format to primary materials, including manuscripts, books, films, prints, photographs, maps and sound recordings, from countries and cultures across the world. The World Digital Library is designed to provide resources for scholars, educators and the general public, to expand the variety and volume of cultural content on the Internet and to promote international and intercultural understanding. The project was initially proposed by James Billington, a librarian at the US Library of Congress, the world’s biggest library, in a speech to the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO in June 2005.

The database currently includes almost 1,200 items, with material drawn from 30 libraries and archives from around the world, including the national libraries of Brazil, Germany, France and China. The oldest exhibit is an 8,000-year-old painting from Africa depicting bleeding antelopes. The manuscript of a Japanese novel which dates back 1,000 years and the earliest known map to mention America by name are also available online. The interface is currently available in English, Arabic, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Russian and Chinese.
The project remains in its early stages and there are plans to considerably expand the existing database.

For a glimpse of the database, visit

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