The U.N. rolled out a new website on Tuesday that offers free access to rare manuscripts, books, films and map ranging from 8,000 old paintings to recent books.

The site cost $10 million and was financed by private donors, including Google, Microsoft, the Qatar Foundation, King Abdullah University in Saudi Arabia and the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

The World Digital Library, an online project by the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco), aims to display and explain just how broad and diverse human cultures are by displaying the content for free in seven languages.

Among the artifacts is a 1,000-year-old Japanese novel that is believed to be the first novel in history and the earliest known map to mention America by name.

About a tenth of the 1,200 exhibits are from Africa - the oldest an 8,000-year-old painting of bleeding antelopes

The project was launched by James Billington, a librarian at the US Library of Congress, the world's biggest library.

The website currently in early stages and only has about 1,200 documents but is expected to grow substantially.

The material is drawn from about 30 libraries and archives across the world, and will be made available in English, Arabic, Chinese, French, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.

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