Unlocking our shared cultural heritage: Google partners with the Austrian National Library

Wednesday, June 16, 2010 at 6:27 PM

Gregor Mendel, the nineteenth century Austro-Hungarian scientist, is an ancestor of modern genetic studies. His paper, Experiments on Plant Hybrids, helped early twentieth century scientists make new discoveries about genetics and hybridity. Several of Mendel’s works now reside in the original in the Austrian National Library, alongside other important works of European and human culture, science and history. Among the other treasures contained in the library are Martin Luther’s first complete translation of the Christian bible, and several of the works of the Renaissance-era doctor and philosopher, Paracelsus.

Today we’re announcing an agreement with the Austrian National Library to digitize works from the library, bringing its rare and unique collection to a global audience through Google Books. The library was founded in the fourteenth century, and it was intended to become the universal human library, containing books in German, Greek, Latin, French, and Italian, among other languages. It contains the first ever printed book in Slovene, the oldest known prints in Bulgarian and an extensive collection of Czech and Hungarian works.

Through this agreement, the library will select up to 400,000 public domain books from its collections. Google will then digitize these works, making them available to anyone in the world with access to the web. This is a great step in our aim to help make the world’s books accessible to anyone with a connection to the Internet. We’re not alone in this aim. Around Europe and the rest of the world, an increasing number of organizations are running ambitious and promising book digitization projects, including the European Union’s own Europeana. We're very supportive of these efforts, because we want to see these books have the broadest reach possible. The books we scan are available for inclusion in Europeana and in other digital libraries.

Through a proliferation of projects such as these, and through more partnerships between private and public bodies, important works like those owned by the Austrian National Library can have tremendous reach. Earlier this year we announced a partnership with the Italian Ministry of Culture to digitize books. Today’s announcement is the next step towards the goal of preserving and disseminating Europe’s cultural heritage.

The Austrian National Library is our tenth library partner in Europe, and we look forward to working with more libraries and other partners. By working with these important institutions, we can help to unlock and democratize access to the world's cultural heritage.

(Cross-posted from the European Public Policy Blog)


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