Quick: where can you go to find an 18th century map of the Galapagos islands, a video recording of immigrants landing on Ellis Island in the early 1900s, and a scanned 15th century German translation of Aesop's fables, complete with photographs of the original cover and woodcut illustrations? You might be able to dig up the first two after lot of Googling and visiting several different libraries, but there are only three known copies of the Aesop's Fables manuscript. So unless you're writing a doctorate thesis on ancient Greek folklore, up until a few days ago, you'd probably have been out of luck there.
Check it out at www.wdl.org.
But not anymore. On Monday, the United Nations launched a new resource, the World Digital Library, where you can access all these documents and hundreds of other sound recordings, maps, prints, videos, photos, books, and manuscripts from all over the world. The website can even be accessed in any of the six official UN languages. You can explore the library by place, time, topic, type of item, or where the original copy is located - whether it's the Library of Congress or the Biblitheca Alexandrina in Egypt.