With 14 employees and an annual budget of € 2.5 million, Europe’s first joint digital library Europeana will open on Thurstay the 20th of November 2008. Users will for example be able to read Dante’s Divina Commedia, and view Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa or Vermeer’s Girl With a Pearl Earring.
The library, created to compete with Google’s Book Search, will initially feature 2 million of documents and works of Art that have fallen in the public domain. Europeana was built upon the expertise of France’s BNF (Bibliothèque Nationale de France), which opened a website in 2007 based on its experience with the 1996 Gallica project.
The European Commission plans to invest some € 120 million until 2010 and is calling for private companies to increase the resources and fasten the digitization of works.
UPDATE: upon official launch, Europeana overwhelmingly received more than 15 million hits per hour which ended up slowing down the servers. The Commission had the portal unplugged and plans to restore accessibility by mid-december. For more information, read the official press release.