Yale University a Partner in Newly Launched World Digital Library

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.

One of the world’s leading research libraries, Yale University Library is a full partner in teaching, research and learning at Yale and is visited by scholars from around the world. Its vast spectrum of resources includes approximately 13 million volumes and information in all media, ranging from ancient papyri to early printed books to electronic databases. The Library is engaged in numerous projects to expand access to its physical and digital collections and employs a staff of nearly 600 people who offer innovative and flexible services to library users. To learn more about Yale University Library and its collections and services, visit www.library.yale.edu.

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Media Contact

Gila Reinstein: gila.reinstein@yale.edu, 203-432-1325