November 16, 2006 Library of Congress and National Library and Archives of Egypt Expand Digital Library Cooperation
Contact: Guy Lamolinara (202) 707-9217
The Library of Congress and the National Library and Archives of Egypt announced a significant milestone in their cooperation on digital initiatives with the opening on Nov. 15 of a state-of-the-art digitization center at the National Library in Cairo. The equipment for the center has been provided by the Library of Congress to the National Library to enable it to digitize rare and unique materials in its collections and make them accessible on the Internet.
The digitization center was officially inaugurated during a ceremony at the National Library. Representing the United States were Ambassador Francis J. Ricciardone and Dr. Michael Albin, director of the Library of Congress Cairo office, who spoke on behalf of Librarian of Congress James H. Billington. Representing the National Library and Archives of Egypt were Dr. Saber Arab, chairman of the National Library and Archives of Egypt, and Dr. Sherif Shaheen, the head of the National Library. A joint Library of Congress-National Library project team demonstrated the equipment to invited guests and members of the press.
The Library of Congress and the National Library are working on a joint project, “Islamic Civilization and Science: A History in the Manuscripts of the Library of Congress and the National Library of Egypt,” that will create a bilingual, Arabic-English Web site documenting the history of science in the Islamic world from A.D. 800 to 1600, as portrayed in the Arabic manuscripts from the collections of the two institutions.
The Library of Congress and the National Library will both be founding partners of the World Digital Library (WDL), which is expected to be launched in 2007. The WDL is an initiative of the Library of Congress that is being undertaken in cooperation with UNESCO and selected libraries and cultural institutions around the world. Dr. Billington first proposed the creation of the WDL in a speech to the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO in June 2005.
The goal of the World Digital Library is to represent major world cultures in a way that contributes to better understanding among different cultures, as well as to serve the needs of scholars and researchers. The project will digitize and make available on the Internet, free of charge and in multilingual format, significant primary materials of many cultures, including manuscripts, maps, rare books, musical scores, recordings, films, prints, photographs, architectural drawings and other materials of interest both to scholars and the general public.
The Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Alexandria, Egypt, will also be a founding partner in the World Digital Library, and a number of other cultural institutions in Egypt have expressed interest in joining the project. In addition to its digital projects with Egyptian partners, the Library of Congress maintains an acquisitions office in Cairo, and has a number of exchanges with Egyptian libraries and cultural institutions.