I’m in heaven

April 28, 2009 at 2:00 am Leave a comment

How good is this!! The World Digital Library has just been launched by UNESCO and 32 partner institutions. It’s a free access digital library of primary, cultural materials from around the world – maps, manuscripts, rare books, films, sound recordings, architectural drawings, prints, musical scores and…..photographs! The library is available in 7 languages: English, Portuguese, French, Russian, Arabic, Chinese and Spanish. This is such a great collection for serendipity; for students; for scholars. I got lost in it for hours (the photographs of course).

The objectives of the WDL 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”. Apparently, this wonderful project was sparked off by Librarian of Congress, James H. Billington, who proposed the establishment of a World Digital Library in a speech to the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO in June 2005. Even Google gave some money towards the project (that’s a brownie point to Google from me).

Go here to browse the WDL by item type. But just let me show you some amazing stuff. Here’s a photograph of a Chola woman (from Bolivia) taken in 1911 by Max T. Vargas.

This is a map of Australia from 1826 created by Adrien Hubert Brué, who accompanied the French explorer, Nicolas Baudin, on his 1803 voyage to Australia.

Of the books available, wow, is all I can say. There’s a fabulous book called Curious Designs – a 1624 book by Giovanni Battista Braccelli, which depicts a suite of 50 etchings that celebrate the human figure in geometric forms. A pamphlet that is Thomas Jefferson’s personal copy of A Summary View of the Rights of British America, which he originally drafted in July 1774 as a set of instructions for the Virginia delegates to the first Continental Congress. And something I can’t wait to read: Theodore Roosevelt’s 1914 book, Through the Brazilian Wilderness, with photographs by Kermit Roosevelt.

And OMG: you can browse by time or topic – under Philosophy & Psychology, I found a fabulous photograph, taken in 1865-1872, of Tajik women engaged in fortune telling.

And under Literature & Rhetoric, I found London Town (1883) by Felix Leigh – a late Victorian book of children’s poetry, which presents a bright and cheery view of London at the height of its imperial glory.

You can browse by place and I leave you with a WWI promotional poster to mobilise the war effort. The poster says “Australia has promised Britain 50,000 more men: will you help us keep that promise”.


Entry filed under: Cartography, History, Useful resources. Tags: , , .

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