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Centuries-old Persian calligraphy. An 1851 John Tallis and Co. map of Brazil. An 1899 handbook persuading Swedes to settle Canada’s plains. A 1906 video of Ellis Island’s hustle and bustle.
Pieces of the world’s history from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe have come together on a single free Web site. The World Digital Library, a collection of documents, photos, maps and art from countries and cultures around the globe, launched last spring.
In 2005, Librarian of Congress James H. Billington proposed the WDL in a speech to the new US National Commission for UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). Four years later, its 1,200 documents representing 65 nations are just a beginning.
You can search or browse record descriptions. Text on the records isn’t translated, but you can choose from seven languages (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish) for viewing descriptions of the materials. UNESCO and the Library of Congress led development efforts; the latter hosts the site. Google <google.com> helped fund the project.
From the September 2009 Family Tree Magazine