Imagine giving your students free, unlimited access to treasures from cultural institutions from around the world. Perhaps your students would examine an ancient manuscript up close for small but important details. Afterward, they might learn more about its significance from an expert, or search for additional items from the same time or place.
Such experiences are now available through the World Digital Library, a collaborative project of the Library of Congress, the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and institutional partners worldwide. The site features culturally significant primary materials in a variety of formats and languages. These books, manuscripts, maps, photographs, and other primary sources are provided in their original languages, while information about them, including navigation tools and content descriptions, are available in seven languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.
Browse the World Digital Library for cultural treasures by place, time, topic, type of item, or contributing institution, or locate items by keyword search. Special features include interactive geographic clusters, a timeline, and advanced image-viewing. Switch between the seven languages to read or listen to contextual information through item-level descriptions and podcasts. Selected items also feature video files of interviews with curators.
Teachers can have students:
- Identify a personal “favorite treasure.” Ask each student to write a letter to international leaders detailing specific reasons why this item is important to our world heritage and should be preserved for future generations.
- Work in teams to identify items in the World Digital Library that best represent a geographic location, time or topic, depending on your curricular goals, and prepare to share and justify their selections with the class as part of a virtual exhibition.
- Select a type of item, such as manuscript, map or photograph, and identify two examples of this format from different contributing institutions to compare and contrast the cultural significance of each selection.
- Prepare a case study, individually or in groups, of a world community focused on how people shape the development of a community. Students can select topics to find evidence in the World Digital Library collection that depict: people and groups, then and now; important contributions; impact of geography; unique features (volcanoes, rainforests, mountains), and; changes over time.
- The Library offers a primary source set, Maps from the World Digital Library, which includes PDF versions of selected maps and a Teacher’s Guide with historical context, additional teaching ideas and more.
How have you used the World Digital Library to bring the world’s cultures and civilizations into your classroom?