Cultural Heritage Online: The World Digital Library in a Global Context

Date: Thursday, March 21, 2019 to Friday, March 22, 2019

Location: Koninklijke Bibliotheek (National Library of the Netherlands) 

Prins Willem-Alexanderhof 5
2595 BE The Hague

Contact: Maria Smith -

Detail, Revised World Map by Takahashi Kageyasu. Tokyo, 1816. Original in the National Diet Library, Japan. Digital image from the World Digital Library.

In its first twelve years of existence the World Digital Library (WDL) achieved its initial aim of worldwide cooperation on promoting open web access to cultural heritage materials.  Since 2006 a plethora of other efforts to promote online access to cultural heritage have emerged or matured.  With support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Qatar National Library and the Whiting Foundation the Center for Research Libraries (CRL) is now exploring how to position WDL within this new landscape in a way that promotes sustainability, global coordination and inclusiveness.  The Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) and the Europeana Foundation are working with CRL on the planning effort, in tandem with the visioning for a global scale digital library (“Pangia”) and the Europeana digital gateway to the collections of Europe's libraries, museums and archives.

This two-day conference, to be held at the Koninklijke Bibliotheek in The Hague, will bring together representatives of WDL participating libraries and leading digital initiatives to share perspectives and ideas on how to achieve a more robust worldwide ecosystem for research, teaching, new discovery, and the enrichment of human capacity.

Attendance at the conference is by invitation only, and advance registration is required.

Conference Outcomes

  1. Consensus on the scope and scale of activities for the World Digital Library during the next decade.
  2. A strategy for bringing together the World Digital Library (WDL), Europeana, and other national and international digital libraries in a coordinated effort (Pangia) to facilitate access to global cultural heritage.
  3. A foundation for subsequent planning on Pangia (in Doha and London)

Background Documents

Reports prepared by CRL for discussion by participants at the meeting.

  • WDL Content Assessment. A statistical overview of the World Digital Library collections, by content type, country, source institution, and special thematic collections.
  • WDL Governance and Decision Making. A look at the governance and decision-making apparatus that shaped the World Digital Library.
  • WDL Technology Overview. A tehnical acessment of WDL current state, strengths and limitations, changes to consider and options for moving forward.


Day One — March 21, 2019

8:30 Quick Breakfast
9:00 Welcome. Dr. E.J.B. Knibbeler, Director General, Koninklijke Bibliotheek.

Goals and Context for the Discussions: The World Digital Library Phase 2.  Bernard F. Reilly, President, Center for Research Libraries


Keynote: Memory and Society. The Memory of the World and open cultural heritage in an age of nationalism, sectarianism and conflict. Dr. Fackson Banda, Programme Specialist, Memory of the World Programme, UNESCO.


Global Perspective : IFLA's Global Vision.  Stephen Wyber, Manager, Policy and Advocacy, IFLA.


The Cultural Heritage Digital Library Landscape. An overview of national and international initiatives promoting open access to cultural heritage.

International Initiatives: Representatives of three international digital efforts on the benefits, challenges and future of their respective initiatives, and the potential for global alignment.

Moderated Open Discussion. How the international initiatives might interconnect and promote a more structured exchange of information and the sustainability of digital library projects on a global scale.


Lunch (Catered)


The Cultural Heritage Digital Library Landscape (continued)

National Initiatives: The perspectives of those promoting open access to cultural heritage at the nation-state level.  Representatives of national libraries speak about their curatorial approach and the benefits of digital heritage online to their constituents, and suggest how structured cooperation and alignment with others might increase those benefits.


Prospects for Standardizing and Sharing Digital Library Practices. Harry Verwayen, Executive Director, Europeana Foundation. Report and Q&A on two workshops held by Europeana at the National Library of the Netherlands on March 19: on IPR issues (hosted by the consortium; and the technical challenges and opportunities for digital libraries.


World Digital Library Infrastructure: The Potential for Interoperability. Tom Cramer, Associate University Librarian, Library Technology, Stanford University. An analysis of the nature, costs and benefits of three potential technology architectures for the next phase of the World Digital Library: centralized global digital library; Europeana-type portal; and Open Linked Data platform.  Suggestions on how each of those architectures might support the structured exchange of information among digital library projects on a global scale.


Unfinished Business: Technical Assistance and Virtual Repatriation in the World Digital Library Project. John Van Oudenaren, B John Van Oudenaren, Library of Congress. 

16:00 Adjourn

Reception immediately following



Day Two — March 22, 2019



Quick Breakfast

The Pangia Concept: Global Interoperability of Cultural Heritage. Charles Henry, President, Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR)

Pangia, the World Digital Library and Global Interoperability: Background and Rationale

Creating Synergies and Cohesion. Bernard F. Reilly, President, Center for Research Libraries.  The questions for the breakout session discussions on how specifically the WDL can advance global discoverability and interoperability of cultural heritage online.


Rotating Breakout Sessions on Solutions to the Global Stewardship Challenges.

  • The Technology Blueprint: Evaluation of the options and optimal features of a WDL Phase 2 platform functionality that supports and leverages national and international digital cultural heritage efforts, and promotes interoperability.       

  • Governance:  How and by what mechanisms are the major decisions about inclusion, presentation, and priorities best made? How to resolve questions of authority versus ownership, and peoples versus nations; and promote inclusiveness and transparency in decision-making?

  • Finance and Sustainability: What options for Phase 2 funding, incentives and benefits are most likely to engage libraries and funders, and the optimal distribution of costs? What funding models will sustain global digital cooperation and counter the growing privatization of cultural heritage materials?

12:00 Networking Lunch (catered)
13:15 Reports on the Breakout Sessions. The points of consensus reached during the breakout sessions
  Summary and Next Steps. Consensus on a blueprint for WDL Phase 2 and the role it will play in relation to national, international and global ("Pangia") cultural heritage effort.
15:30 Adjourn