Fun Link Friday: World Digital Library

Are you constantly berated by professors to use primary resources for your paper instead of general documents found from a Google search the night before it’s due? (We can tell. Trust us.) Are you a cultural history junkie? Do you have a natural curiousity to explore resources other countries have? Check out the World Digital Library as a place to find some awesome resources.

The World Digital Library (WDL) was initially proposed in 2005 by U.S. Librarian of Congress James H. Billington and officially launched in April of 2009. Contributors to the site are mainly libraries, archives, or other institutions that have cultural collections that can be shared on WDL. The National Diet Library, National Library of China, British Library, Yale University Library, and the Smithsonian are some of the contributing partners to WDL. Currently, the site is hosted and maintained by the United State Library of Congress.

The mission of the WDL is “to make available on the Internet, free of charge, primary resources from countries and cultures around the world. By doing so, the WDL hopes to:

  • Promote and develop international and intercultural understanding.
  • Expand the volume and variety of cultural content on the Internet.
  • Provide resources for educators, scholars, and general audiences.
  • Narrow the digital divide within and between countries.”

Currently, the site maintains 1,487 items ranging from time periods 8,000 BC to 2010 AD (With more items to be added over time). Users can browse resources available through the site by region, time period, topic, type, and originating institution. Additionally, users can search for resources in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish. (Seriously, this is totally drool worthy. Could you imagine writing your thesis in the 80s? That’s pre-internet! You’d have to beg to access such documents beforehand and then travel to the libraries and read them. Under glass. Or use a microfiche. Your paper would take forever to write before your professor was wowed.)

As a user searches for resources, they can narrow their results with the faceted search side bar. The user is able to further narrow their results by place, time period, topic of interest, type of item, and originating institution. Currently, there are 34 items related to Japan. However, these 34 items include access to primary resources like an illustrated copy of Ogura hyakunin isshu (One 100 Poems by 100 Poets) dating from 1680, 師守記 (Diary of Moromori), or a (super-sexy) woodblock print of the warrior Asahina Kobayashi.

I encourage you to check out the World Digital Library. You’ll discover fantastic primary resources from not just your primary area of interest/study, but many other wonderful cultures. As this site grows and develops, I’m certain that more items will be added to build and develop cultural awareness and understanding.

Tony Nguyen

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