Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The World Digital Library and other portals to the world

Warning: Looking at any of the sites listed in this post can serious increase the time you spend on the Internet. Proceed with caution. 

The World Digital Library (WDL) is a website dedicated to making available, on the Internet, free of charge and in multilingual format, significant primary materials from countries and cultures around the world. It is funded, in part, by the United Nations Educations, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Quoting from the site, the principal objectives are to:

  • Promote international and intercultural understanding;
  • Expand the volume and variety of cultural content on the Internet;
  • Provide resources for educators, scholars, and general audiences;
  • Build capacity in partner institutions to narrow the digital divide within and between countries. 
The WDL has 136 partners from 72 countries, 57 of which are national libraries. See The World Digital Library, A Truly International Effort

This online collection is typical of the efforts being made around the world to digitize, not only documents, but all sorts of cultural items. The WDL is a relatively small effort presently, compared to the online collections in the Library of Congress, Archives.org, Europeana,  and other similar sites, but it is an indication of the direction that countries and private institutions are taking to preserve the world's documents and cultural artifacts online. Another stellar example is the Google Art Project, a virtual tour of some of the world's great art museums.

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