Those interested in researching World History online might find this web resource very useful. It's great for finding digital copies of documents, pictures, maps, and art going all the way back to 8000 B.C. Take a look at WDL.org, the World Digital Library.
It's a developing resource, and right now there are (only) 1,350 items, but the format is great, and the concept really has potential, especially considering all of the world-renown archives that have partnered with the site. It's promises to be at the international level what the Library of Congress has become to the United States.
From the about pages:
The WDL makes it possible to discover, study, and enjoy cultural treasures from around the world on one site, in a variety of ways. These cultural treasures include, but are not limited to, manuscripts, maps, rare books, musical scores, recordings, films, prints, photographs, and architectural drawings.
Items on the WDL may easily be browsed by place, time, topic, type of item, and contributing institution, or can be located by an open-ended search, in several languages. Special features include interactive geographic clusters, a timeline, advanced image-viewing and interpretive capabilities. Item-level descriptions and interviews with curators about featured items provide additional information.
Navigation tools and content descriptions are provided in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish. Many more languages are represented in the actual books, manuscripts, maps, photographs, and other primary materials, which are provided in their original languages.
The WDL was developed by a team at the U.S. Library of Congress, with contributions by partner institutions in many countries; the support of the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); and the financial support of a number of companies and private foundations.
To navigate the site, simply go to WDL.org and choose the approximate time you want to search on the slider bar at the bottom of the world map. Then, click on the continent. A library will pop-up, and you can choose from the available selections. The archive is being translated into many languages, and the navigation is very intuitive and picture-based, so that people with very basic reading and language skills can benefit from the site. There are also other search and sort options at the top of the page, to help you find what you're looking for.
A look at the funding page is interesting...the motivation for some of the donors seems to be the promotion of their own culture and history (e.g. The Bridges of Understanding Foundation for the development of Middle East-related content for inclusion in the WDL). And then, of course, there's Google.
Jennifer Pointer (e-mail) is in Tulsa, OK. She promotes a simple, a low-tech approach to effective online profile management, search engine optimization and social networking.