Google is giving $3 million to the U.S. Library of Congress to help set up a system for creating digital copies of rare documents from around the world. This is not directly related to genealogy but one has to believe that the effort will greatly aid genealogists.
With the donation announced Tuesday, Google becomes the first business to back the "World Digital Library," a concept that began to take shape about five months ago. The worldwide program is loosely modeled after the Library of Congress' American Memory project launched 11 years ago.
Backed with $48 million in private donations and a $15 million infusion from the federal government, the American Memory site at now has more than 10 million items, including early maps of the United States as well as photos and letters from the Civil War at http://loc.gov/memory
Librarian of Congress James Billington now wants to create similar sites devoted to other cultures outside the United States and Europe. Although nothing has been finalized, Billington initially envisions devoting large sections of the World Digital Library to material from China, India and Islam.
"Much of this will be one-of-a-kind material that you won't be able to find anywhere else," according to Billington. "Getting the material out there (online) is really important. We have already preserved a lot of material that might have perished in other hands."
Google co-founder Sergey Brin characterized the donation as no-brainer for his Mountain View, Calif.-based company as it pursues its avowed mission "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful."
"This is a philanthropic initiative for us," Brin said during a Monday interview. "It's all about making more information available to more people."
Google's motives aren't entirely altruistic. Because Google makes most of money from the ads that appear when Web surfers are searching for something, the company stands to profit whenever more material comes online.
The World Digital Library plans to focus on material no longer protected by copyright.
You can learn more at:
National Digital Library Program: http://www.loc.gov
American Memory Web site: http://www.loc.gov/memory
Library of Congress' Global Gateway site: http://international.loc.gov/intldl/intldlhome.html
My thanks to Maureen Mann for telling me about this project.