PARIS A globe-spanning UN digital library seeking to display and explain the wealth of all human cultures has gone into operation on the Internet, serving up mankind’s accumulated knowledge in seven languages for students around the world.
James Billington, the librarian of Congress who launched the project four years ago, said the ambition was to make available on an easy-to-navigate site, free for scholars and other curious people anywhere, a collection of primary documents and authoritative explanations from the planet’s leading libraries.
The site, www.wdl.org, has put up the Japanese work that is considered the first novel in history, for instance, along with the Aztecs’ first mention of the Christ child in the New World and the works of ancient Arab scholars piercing the mysteries of algebra, each entry flanked by learned commentary. “There are many one-of-a-kind documents,” Billington said in an interview.
The World Digital Library, which was officially inaugurated Tuesday at the Paris headquarters of UNESCO, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, has started small, with about 1,200 documents and their explanations from scholars in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Portuguese, Spanish and Russian. But it is designed to accommodate an unlimited number of such texts, charts and illustrations from as many countries and libraries as want to contribute.
“There is no limit,” Billington said. “Everybody is welcome.”
The main target is children, he added, building on the success among young people of the U.S. National Digital Library Program, which has been in operation at the Library of Congress since the mid-1990s.
By Edward Cody | The Washington Post