A new World Digital Library (WDL) display, on the south side of the Jefferson Building’s first floor just beyond the Orientation Gallery, offers two Internet-access computers. From these keyboards, visitors can explore the WDL and its holdings. The exhibition also lets onlookers watch on a screen above one of the keyboards as the WDL is being “surfed.” The World Digital Library features manuscripts, maps, rare books, films, sound recordings, and prints and photographs. It can be accessed at www.wdl.org.
The WDL functions in seven languages—Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish—and includes content in several dozen languages. The site offers browse and search features that facilitate cross-cultural and cross-temporal exploration. 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 WDL was developed by a team at the Library of Congress. Technical assistance was provided by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina of Alexandria, Egypt, which also hosts a mirror site of the WDL. Institutions contributing content include national libraries and cultural institutions in Egypt, China, the United States, France, Brazil, Russia, and Mexico—the largest nations in the world where Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish are spoken. Other contributing institutions are in Iraq, Israel, Japan, Mali, Mexico, Morocco, the Netherlands, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Slovakia, and Sweden.
At the time WDL was launched in April (see Information Bulletin, May 2009), there were 34 partners in 21 nations. Since that time, 11 new partners from eight nations have signed on, giving users of the website access to digital material from 45 partner institutions in 29 countries. Since its launch, the site has been accessed by more than 4.3 million users.
Examples of other treasures featured 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 the year 764 from the National Diet Library of Japan), the famous “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.