The World Digital Library, which has now gone live and was inaugurated today, April 21, 2009, at the UNESCO office in Paris, has a laudable mission:
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.
There's an excellent article about it on Washington Post.com that lays out the history, scope, and future plans for the project. From the article:
A globe-spanning U.N. digital library seeking to display and explain the wealth of all human cultures has gone into operation on the Internet, serving up mankind’s accumulated knowledge in seven languages for students around the world.
James H. Billington, the librarian of Congress who launched the project four years ago, said the ambition was to make available on an easy-to-navigate site, free for scholars and other curious people anywhere, a collection of primary documents and authoritative explanations from the plant's leading libraries.
Click HERE to link to the Washington Post.com article, and HERE to link to the World Digital Library itself.