The Library of Congress, UNESCO and partners launched the World Digital Library yesterday, a website that features "unique cultural materials from libraries and archives from around the world."
The site―located at http://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.
Now don't get too excited because it's moving REALLY slow right now - probably because everyone's checking it out. And while the site is sophisticated, it currently has a fairly small amount of material on it. (133 items for North America, 380 for Europe, 122 for Africa) But we can expect that to change over time as it grows more robust with content.
The World Digital Library functions in seven languages―Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish―and includes content in more than 40 languages. Descriptions of each item and videos, with expert curators speaking about selected items.
Here's a cool item to get you started: Emigrant's Map and Guide for Routes to North America. This map, created by Gotthelf Zimmermann in 1853, reflects the importance of German immigration to North America in the mid-19th century.
Other examples of featured items include Arabic scientific manuscripts from the National Library and Archives of Egypt; early photographs of Latin America from the National Library of Brazil; the "Hyakumanto darani," a publication from A.D. 764 from the National Diet Library of Japan; the famous 13th century "Devil’s Bible" from the National Library of Sweden; and works of Arabic, Persian, and Turkish calligraphy from the collections of the Library of Congress.
If you find something of particular interest please share by posting a comment!