World Digital Library

The launch date for this exciting project is now confirmed as 21st April.

The World Digital Library will make available on the Internet, free of charge and in multilingual format, significant primary materials from cultures around the world, including manuscripts, maps, rare books, musical scores, recordings, films, prints, photographs, architectural drawings, and other significant cultural materials. The objectives of the World Digital Library are to promote international and inter-cultural understanding and awareness, provide resources to educators, expand non-English and non-Western content on the Internet, and to contribute to scholarly research.

It’s been in the making for the past four years and the planning stages have been financed with the support of Google, Apple and Intel.  Modelled on the Library of Congress’s American Memory project, you will be able to listen to a former American slave tell his story, turn the pages of a book about ancient treasures from Egypt or pore over old maps written in Latin.  Writing in the Washington Post John Ward Andersen stated, “as ideas go, they don’t come much bigger”.

Its creators see it as the ultimate multilingual, multicultural tool for researching and retrieving information about knowledge and creativity from any era or place. The WDL Web site ( will provide access to original documents, films, maps, photographs, manuscripts, musical scores and recordings, architectural drawings and other primary resources through a variety of search methods.

Last year, I wrote about a similar European project Europeana – which has fantastic depth of European coverage – but this is on quite a different scale as you can see from the worldwide list of partners:

There are some surprising gaps – no partner libraries from India or Italy?

However, this global scope goes a long way to countering the overwhelmingly Anglo-Saxon bias of Google Print. The  website allows you to select one of seven languages – or at least that’s what I could see from the prototype – English, Chinese, Russian, Arabic, Spanish, Portuguese and French.    This will give it a truly multilingual scope and broaden access.

2 Replies to “World Digital Library”

  1. As a writer of historical fiction I believe that it is very possible to create a story which is both truthful and accurate as to actual historical events. It was very important to me to do both and bring honour to those who’ve done incredible things so we can be here today.

    Being authentic does take a lot of work (research) but it was a pleasure to delve into. Check out my debut novel “Shameful Innocence” at

    Currently I’m researching a different time period and country for my second historical novel. This one is filled with suspense and adventure! Truly it’s a gift to me to be able to learn about this culture!

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