Cultured Europe: EU electronic library opens, crashes

Yesterday, the EU yesterday launched the prototype of Europeana, its project to digitise millions of books, artworks, manuscripts, maps, objects and films from the most important libraries, museums and archives.

The plan is to provide access to them all from one website, from where the content can be downloaded freely.

The EU commission's head, José Manuel Barroso, called it a Renaissance moment, as Europe plans to outdo commercial search engines in the staggering scope of its collection, reports The Guardian.

The demand for was so great that by 10.30am yesterday it had to be temporarily closed after crashing under the weight of 10 million hits an hour. Last night, the site was still experiencing problems and was again taken offline.

The article says the project was born of a fear among European leaders and culture bosses that Google was dominating the web, with its Book Search project scanning millions of books from dozens of world libraries to boost its traffic.