April 9, 2009
Yale University Library joined with UNESCO, the Library of Congress and 30 international institutions in Paris today to launch the World Digital Library, a website that features unique cultural materials from libraries and archives around the world.
The site, located at www.wdl.org, provides free, unrestricted public access to manuscripts, maps, rare books, films, sound recordings, prints and photographs.
Yale has contributed a number of important works in the pilot phase, including 22 pencil drawings of the Amistad slave ship prisoners, ca. 1839-40; William Clark's 1810 map of North America; an Arabic calligraphy primer, ca. 1852-53; and one of three manuscript copies of Ferdinand Magellan's journal from his voyage around the world in 1522. As the project expands, more content will be added from digital collections across the University, reflecting the international strength of Yale's holdings.
Yale University Librarian Alice Prochaska said, “The Library is proud to be part of this robust digital partnership and looks forward to making many of our rich and unusual collections available to researchers and students around the world. The World Digital Library also supports the Library’s and Yale’s mission to promote education, research and the dissemination of knowledge while preserving our cultural heritage for future generations.”
The launch took place during an event at UNESCO headquarters co-hosted by UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura and Librarian of Congress James H. Billington. Leaders from the partner institutions were on hand to present the project to ambassadors, ministers, delegates and special guests attending the semi-annual meeting of UNESCO’s Executive Board.
Associate University Librarian Ann Okerson represented Yale at the launch and said, "One of the Library’s highest priorities is to support and promote Yale as a truly global university. The World Digital Library will not only open many of our collections to the world, but will also support teaching and scholarship at Yale in area studies, languages and world cultures.”
The World Digital Library functions in seven languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish, and includes content in more than 40 languages. Browse and search features facilitate cross-cultural and cross-temporal exploration on the site. Descriptions and videos, some with expert curators speaking about selected items, provide context intended to spark curiosity and encourage both students and the general public to learn more about the cultural heritage of all countries.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), founded in 1945, functions as a laboratory of ideas to forge universal agreements on emerging ethical issues. UNESCO serves as a clearinghouse for the dissemination of information while helping member states to build their human and institutional capacities in diverse fields.
Image: page from an Arabic calligraphy primer, ca. 1852-53.