Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Popularity brings down EUROPEANA , Europe's Digital Library

EuropeanaLaunched on 20th November, Europeana - the European digital library, museum and archive - slowed to a crawl following an average of 10 million hits an hour. At the moment the Europeana site is temporarily not accessible due to such overwhelming interest after its launch, and it is hoped to have a more robust version available by mid-December. For a preview of Europeana click here.

By mid-December at, Internet users around the world will be able to access more than two million books, maps, recordings, photographs, archival documents, paintings and films from national libraries and cultural institutions of the EU's 27 Member States. Europeana will open up new ways of exploring Europe’s heritage: anyone interested in literature, art, science, politics, history, architecture, music or cinema will have free and fast access to Europe's greatest collections and masterpieces in a single virtual library through a web portal available in all EU languages. But this is just the beginning. In 2010, Europeana will give access to millions of items representing Europe's rich cultural diversity and will have interactive zones such as communities for special interests. Between 2009 and 2011, some €2 million per year of EU funding will be dedicated to this. The Commission also plans to involve the private sector in the further expansion of Europe's digital library. In September 2007, the European Parliament supported, in a resolution voted by an overwhelming majority, the creation of a European digital library.

Europeana will make it possible to search and browse the digitised collections of Europe's libraries, archives and museums all at once. This means users can explore themes without searching for and visiting multiple sites and resources. Europeana was initiated by the Commission in 2005 and brought to fruition in close cooperation with national libraries and other cultural bodies of the Member States as well as with the strong support of the European Parliament. Europeana is run by the European Digital Library Foundation, which brings together Europe's major associations of libraries, archives, museums, audiovisual archives and cultural institutions. Europeana is hosted by the Dutch national library, the Koninklijke Bibliotheek.

Over 1,000 cultural organisations from across Europe have provided material for Europeana. Europe’s museums, including the Louvre in Paris and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, have supplied digitised paintings and objects from their collections. State archives have made important national documents available, and France's Institut National de l’Audiovisuel supplied 80,000 broadcasts recording the 20th century, right back to early footage shot on the battlefields of France in 1914. National libraries all over Europe have contributed printed and manuscript material, including digitised copies of the great books that brought new ideas into the world.

Internet users will be able to find fascinating cultural objects on Europeana such as the 9th Symphony of Beethoven, footage of the coming down of the Berlin wall (Germany), the French Déclaration des droits de l'homme of 1789 or 'Les Fleurs du Mal' (1857) from the French poet Charles Baudelaire, the British Magna Carta of 1215 from the British Library in UK, the Divina Commedia by Dante from Italy or pictures of the house and the tomb of the Italian physicist and astronomer Galileo Galilei, several paintings by Vermeer such as 'Girl with the Pearl Earring' from the Mauritshuis in The Hague (Netherlands), paintings by Jan Van Eyck, such as the 'Madonna met kanunnik Joris van der Paele' of 1436 from the Groeninge museum in Brugge (Belgium), the 'Carta plana de parte da Costa do Brazil' (a map dated 1784), illustrating Portugal's former colonies, the medieval Codex Vysegradensis from the Czech Republic, works by the Hungarian lyrical poet Sandór Petofi from 19th century, the bronze medal portrait of Alfred Nobel from Sweden, original letters and music scores by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in Austria, the manuscript of symphony no. 5 by Jan Sibelius, his picture, and performances of his works in Finland, the handwritten text of 1563 signed by King Sigismund II Augustus (King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania) from the Lithuanian national library, the famous Slovenian folk song 'Sem hodu res zanjo' dated from around 1940, a history of the kings of Spain, written by the historian Prudencio de Sandoval and published in 1634, the manuscript of the ‘preludes’ by the famous Polish pianist Frédéric Chopin, a 15th century illustration of the ‘Danse Macabre’, from the Romanian national library, the cover of the ‘Righas Charta’, the cartographic masterpiece of the Greek enlightenment, by the Greek writer Righas Velestinlis, a photograph of the opening of negotiations between the two Cypriot communities in 2004, a Venetian map of Malta dated 1689, held by the National Library in Malta, a recording of the 1950 ‘Schuman declaration’, from the Centre Virtuel de la Connaissance de l’Europe in Luxembourg, the 19th century ‘Levski Ordinance to the workers for the liberation of the Bulgarian people’, the cover pages of the first edition of the Bible in Estonian (1739), the original film material showing the liberation of Denmark in 1945, a ‘Kalendarium’, a unique old book with type setting in red and black dated 1486-1504, held in Slovakia, posters announcing the 1933 Song Festival in Riga and the Latvian exposition of 1934 in Stockholm, the ‘Topographia hiberniae’, a map from the 11th century, representing the location of Ireland in Europe. Thousands of other unique pieces of European art, history and culture will also be available on Europeana.

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