Digital library featuring Yale items debuts

A new online library that digitizes selected holdings from more than 30 institutions around the world, including the Yale University library, officially launched Tuesday in a Paris ceremony.

The World Digital Library assembles a collection of materials — including manuscripts, maps and rare books, among others — into an online database and makes them available free of charge to any Internet user. The Library of Congress developed the WDL in cooperation with 33 institutions and sponsorship from several major private U.S. corporations.

“One of the Library’s highest priorities is to support and promote Yale as a truly global university,” Associate University Librarian for Collections and International Programs Ann Okerson said in a statement. “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 WDL can accommodate an unlimited number of entries across all disciplines. The site displays each entry with a video explanation of the item, provided by a representative of the institution that contributed the item.

So far, Yale has uploaded 27 items from collections unique to the University. The contribution includes 22 pencil drawings of Amistad slave ship prisoners, a primer in Arabic calligraphy and a journal kept by a member of Ferdinand Magellan’s 1522 circumnavigation of the globe.

“We will certainly be adding more content,” Library Communications Coordinator Geoffrey Little said. “We could have a large amount of material coming from all libraries, Yale University Art Gallery, the Yale Center for British Art.”

Okerson, who was in Paris for the launch ceremony, declined to comment on Tuesday afternoon.

According to the WDL’s Web site, the collection aims to “build capacity in partner institutions to narrow the digital divide within and between countries.”

At launch, World Digital Library contained about 1,200 documents in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. Little said the number of entries is expected to increase exponentially as more institutions join and current contributors digitize more archives.

The Library of Congress, Brown University Library, John Carter Brown Library and Yale University Library are the only four North American institutions participating in this project.

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