The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and 32 partner institutions recently launched the World Digital Library, a website that features unique 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.
The launch took place at UNESCO Headquarters at an event co-hosted by UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura and Librarian of Congress James H. Billington. Billington first proposed the creation of a World Digital Library (WDL) to UNESCO in 2005.
A team at the Library of Congress developed the World Digital Library. The Bibliotheca Alexandrina of Alexandria, Egypt provided technical assistance. Institutions contributing to the WDL include national libraries and cultural and educational institutions in Brazil, Egypt, China, France, Iraq, Israel, Japan, Mali, Mexico, Morocco, the Netherlands, Qatar, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Slovakia, South Africa, Sweden, Uganda, the United Kingdom and the United States.
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.