Wednesday, April 22, 2009

World Digital Library launched on April 20

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and 32 partner institutions launched the World Digital Library on Monday. It is a $60 million joint effort. Quoting the press release:

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. Technical assistance was provided by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina of Alexandria, Egypt. 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.

Contributed content covers nearly 200 countries and includes 1,200 high-resolution digitized files. 1,200 files is a modest beginning, but it is a beginning. The project's funding and partner commitment should allow this to grow to include much, much more.

Time Magazine wonders, though:
While the artifacts themselves are well-presented and engrossing, it's hard to see how this promising collection of primary sources can avoid competing with the likes of Google and Wikipedia for readers who don't need to read Genji in the original Japanese.
Good point and hopefully something that has been addressed in the project and marketing plans for this effort.

If you haven't looked at it, please do. The browse function is quite cool and will undoubtedly get people to play with it, use it, and learn from it.

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