World Digital Library: Cultural treasures, at your fingertips

On April 21, 2009, the World Digital Library debuted. Its mission: “[to make] available on the Internet, free of charge and in multilingual format, significant primary materials from countries and cultures around the world.”

Developed by the Library of Congress with the support of UNESCO (the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization), and many other partner institutions, the WDL contains books, journals, manuscripts, maps, motion pictures, prints and photographs, and sound recordings. At its launch, the site contained contributions from 25 institutions in 19 countries.

You can browse the site by place, time, topic, type of item, or by institution. The movable timeline at the bottom of the home page starts at 8000 BC, and runs up to the present time. Keyword searching is also available. Both browsing and searching can be done in seven different languages: Arabic, English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Chinese, and Russian. Many more languages are found in the actual materials, which are shown in their original languages.

Browsing by type of item, I found and listened to a beautiful rendition of Amazing Grace, played on bagpipes by a military band from Scotland in 1972 (contributed by the Library of Congress). Browsing by place, I looked at the pages of The Four Books in Chapter and Verse with Collected Commentaries (in Chinese), created in China in 1217 (contributed by the National Library of China). And finally, I browsed by time, and studied a 1775 Latin map of the world (contributed by the National Library of Brazil).

As you can see, there are lots of fascinating cultural treasures in this online library, and it will continue to grow. Take a look, and see what treasures you can find!

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