UNESCO, the US Library of Congress and more than 30 other institutions have launched a Web site containing manuscripts, photographs and even early films. The goal is to make culture more accessible to everyone.
The World Digital Library contains reproductions from every continent
Rare photos from the Ottoman Empire, a 13th Century Swedish "Devil's Bible" and an 11th Century Japanese novel are among the unique works available at the Web site, which premiered on Tuesday, April 21.
The project is the brainchild of James Billington from the Library of Congress and he says the emphasis was on both user-friendliness and accuracy.
"All of these materials have been vetted by curators and scholars so that they are dependable," Billington told a news conference at the Paris headquarters of UNESCO, the UN cultural agency that oversaw the project.
The site is available in seven languages and features holdings from partner institutions in 19 countries.
Major contributors to the World Digital Library are Brazil, Britain, China, France, Japan, Russia and the United States. South Africa, Uganda and Mali are putting up materials from Africa.
The project received some of its funding from private donors including Google, Microsoft and several philanthropic foundations.
Other reproductions featured on the site are of the constitution of India, a biography of American baseball player Jackie Robinson and the world's first film footage by the Lumiere brothers in nineteenth-century France.