The world is atwitter with the news of the launch of the World Digital Library, literally. The Twitter social networking site was abuzz with hundreds of tweets about the inauguration, including tweets in Spanish, French, Portuguese and Italian, as well as other languages.
In 2005, at the first meeting of the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO after the United States reentered its community of nations, James Billington took advantage of his opening plenary address to lay our a vision of the World Digital Library. He proposed an online collection, global in scope and catalyzed by UNESCO, that would be modeled after the Library of Congress' American Memory, a website that provides free and open access through the Internet to written and spoken words, sound recordings, still and moving images, prints, maps, and sheet music that document the American experience. At the time of his talk, the American Memory already contained 40 million entries.
Billington's proposal, that the United States delegation take his proposal to UNESCO, was enthusiastically accepted by the members of the National Commission. Since that time the proposal has been exhaustively reviewed and approved by UNESCO's governing bodies. A number of national libraries and the Library of Alexandria joined in the effort. $10 million has been raised, including $3 million from Google.
This week the World Digital Library was made available with 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.
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