The World Digital Library (WDL) makes available on the Internet, free of charge and in multilingual format, significant primary materials from countries and cultures around the world. The principal objectives of the WDL are to:
- Promote international and intercultural understanding;
- Expand the volume and variety of cultural content on the Internet;
- Provide resources for educators, scholars, and general audiences;
- Build capacity in partner institutions to narrow the digital divide within and between countries.
The WDL makes it possible to discover, study, and enjoy cultural treasures from around the world on one site, in a variety of ways. These cultural treasures include, but are not limited to, manuscripts, maps, rare books, musical scores, recordings, films, prints, photographs, and architectural drawings.
Items on the WDL may easily be browsed by place, time, topic, type of item, and contributing institution, or can be located by an open-ended search, in several languages. Special features include interactive geographic clusters, a timeline, advanced image-viewing and interpretive capabilities. Item-level descriptions and interviews with curators about featured items provide additional information.
Navigation tools and content descriptions are provided in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish. Many more languages are represented in the actual books, manuscripts, maps, photographs, and other primary materials, which are provided in their original languages.
The WDL was developed by a team at the U.S. Library of Congress, with contributions by partner institutions in many countries; the support of the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); and the financial support of a number of companies and private foundations.