The Organization of American States (OAS) has agreed to join with the Library of Congress in developing the World Digital Library, which will open to the public at its formal launch in Paris next year.
Secretary General José Miguel Insulza signed the “Contributor Agreement” with Librarian of Congress, Dr. James Billington, at an OAS headquarters ceremony Thursday.
Under the agreement, the OAS’ Columbus Memorial Library will collaborate on the global library project, whose main objectives include promoting international and intercultural understanding and awareness; providing resources to educators; expanding non-English and non-Western content on the Internet; and contributing to scholarly research.
Insulza welcomed the opportunity for OAS partnership in the historic venture, remarking: “We are extremely proud that the Columbus Memorial Library will become a partner in this project, contributing unique materials from the Americas towards the objectives of the World Digital Library as it develops to promote international and inter cultural understanding and awareness.”
The Secretary General hailed the Library of Congress and the Columbus Memorial Library on their respective important roles in the history of the Americas. The OAS Library was created in April 1890 by the First International Conference of American States, while the Library of Congress, a United States Government agency, was established in 1800.
“The Columbus Memorial Library is the repository of the institutional memory of the OAS and its predecessor, the Pan American Union,” Insulza explained. “It serves as a modern information and documentation center, providing essential information to the OAS General Secretariat, the Permanent Missions, the diplomatic community, and the general public interested in the organizations’ work and the history of the inter-American system.”
Dr. Billington, meanwhile, welcomed the OAS’ important partnership that will contribute content representing 35 Member States. He also made special mention of the OAS’ contribution of language expertise to this endeavor that will operate in seven languages, including the Western Hemisphere body’s official languages—Spanish, French, Portuguese and English.
“Working with the OAS sends an important signal to cultural institutions in all the countries of the Western Hemisphere about cooperation in this project,” the Librarian of Congress added, in outlining the history of the initiative which so far has enlisted a number of national libraries and cultural institutions worldwide. Billington said the World Digital Library seeks “to bring people together by collecting information about different cultures, in a single global undertaking.”
OAS Permanent Council Chairman Ambassador Nestor Mendez of Belize, Director of the World Digital Library John van Oudenaren and Director of the Columbus Memorial Library Beverly Wharton-Lake were among those on hand for the occasion.
Spearheaded by the Library of Congress in collaboration with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and other institutions from around the world, the World Digital Library will make available on the Internet, free of charge and in multilingual format, significant primary materials from cultures around the world, including manuscripts, maps, rare books, musical scores, recordings, films, photographs, architectural drawings, and other significant cultural materials.