The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the U.S. Library of Congress have joined forces to build a World Digital Library. Approved in late October in Paris, the library initiative will digitize rare and unique materials from libraries and other cultural institutions around the world and make them available free of charge on the Internet. These materials include manuscripts, books, maps, sound recordings, musical scores, prints, films and photos.
Under the terms of the agreement, the Library of Congress and UNESCO will convene groups of experts and other stakeholders to develop guidelines and technical specifications for the project, attracting partners, and gaining support from private and public sources.
The World Digital Library initiative was undertaken to promote international and inter-cultural understanding, boost the quality and diversity of cultural content on the Internet, and contribute to education and scholarship. Individuals and institutions in more than 40 countries have already participated in working groups and meetings to plan the World Digital Library.
“Libraries are key actors for ensuring universal access to information and building knowledge societies,” said UNESCO Director-General, Koïchiro Matsuura.
“We are very pleased to build on the excellent partnership that we have long enjoyed with the Library of Congress to work in innovative ways to preserve and make accessible the memory of the world,” he added.
The project will continue work already undertaken by UNESCO’s Memory of the World program, which aims to preserve documentary heritage. This heritage includes the diversity of languages, peoples and cultures. UNESCO launched the Memory of the World program to support the preservation of library collections and archive holdings around the world and to ensure dissemination of their materials.
“We look forward to continuing and deepening our collaboration with UNESCO, and to working with the Organization and its staff to ensure that libraries, archives and museums from around the world join with us in making their cultural treasures accessible online,” said Dr. James H. Billington, the Librarian of Congress.
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