On Thursday evening, a very nice gift was given, and received, in an ornate room at the U.S. Department of State. Afghan President Hamid Karzai was the recipient – on behalf of several libraries and research institutions in his nation – of a trove of digitized treasures from the Library of Congress and its associated World Digital Library, during a meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
This “virtual repatriation” of materials largely found in the Library’s African and Middle Eastern Division (including poems and calligraphy by Mir’Ali Heravi, who worked in Afghanistan in the 16thcentury and manuscripts, rare books, maps, and photographs) was in turn part of a recent grant of $2 million by the Carnegie Corporation of New York to the World Digital Library (www.wdl.org).
Now, here’s the part where you come in: the World Digital Library is waiting for you to dig into its manuscripts (and more manuscripts), maps, rare books (and more rare books), sound recordings, films, prints and photographs – all available free of charge – any time at all, 24 hours a day. And you can access it in any of seven languages. WDL, online since 2009, is a cooperative international project led by the Library of Congress.
It’s like being admitted to the antiquities rooms of the world’s great libraries, museums and archives (160 institutions from 77 nations have submitted their most exciting holdings to the World Digital Library) and just being allowed to leaf through the materials at will. Illustrations, pictures or maps can be zoomed in on to bring up amazing levels of detail.
So, dig in – what’s your favorite item in the World Digital Library?