National libraries and the United Nations education agency have put some of humanity's earliest written works online in the World Digital Library. From ancient Chinese oracle bones to the first European map of the New World to the only known copy of the first book published in the Philippines, the project ultimately seeks to pique young readers' interest - and get them reading books.
The Web site can be navigated in seven different languages - English, Arabic, Chinese, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Russian - and contains treasures such as rock paintings,
early photographs, films and audio tracks from 19 countries, with some items dating back to 8,000 B.C. Users can enter a specific search term or browse the catalog by place, time, topic, type of item or institution. The easy-to-use site offers page-by-page viewing of the original works, often with multilingual narration by curators.
James H. Billington, creator of the project and U.S. Librarian of Congress, said the digital library "brings together cultural heritage that's scattered around the world" and is "an entryway to learning for those who are living in an audiovisual world."