Wilma den Hartigh
South Africa’s University of Pretoria Department of Library Services will soon join the ranks of other world-renowned libraries, becoming one of only 27 institutions – and the only one in sub-Saharan Africa – to belong to the World Digital Library Project.
The project, a joint initiative of the US Library of Congress and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco), will be a valuable resource for students, teachers and general audiences to promote international understanding and intercultural awareness.
Another aim is to expand non-English and non-Western content on the internet and to contribute to scholarly research.
Robert Moropa, director of the Department of Library Services at the University of Pretoria, said the University’s inclusion in the project is a great honour.
“We find it exciting that our library is ranked with other top university libraries internationally such as Yale and Brown University,” Moropa said. Only one other library in Africa – the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Egypt – is part of the World Digital Library Project.
A mockup of what the World Digital Library home page will look like when its internet site is launched.
(Image: World Digital Library)
To be considered for membership, the University of Pretoria library was required to submit sample material from collections it hoped to share in the project. Their submission included examples from its Pretoriana Collection, which includes articles, photographs, newspapers, brochures, architectural plans and maps of Pretoria. It also submitted material from its Woodhouse Collection, containing rock painting and art.
The principal of the University of Pretoria, Professor Calie Pistorius, said the partnership makes it possible for the University to improve its digital information management, database resources management and service delivery. Digital access also means that more people can appreciate these valuable collections, which would otherwise only be accessible to a select few.
The World Digital Library will be available on the internet, free of charge. It will be in a multilingual format and will include materials from cultures around the world: manuscripts, maps, rare books, musical scores, recordings, films, prints, photographs, architectural drawings and other cultural materials.
In April Moropa will attend the World Digital Library Project launch at the Unesco headquarters in Paris.
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