“Democracy is the worst form of government, apart from all the other forms that have been tried from time to time.” So said Winston Churchill, perhaps not realizing how frequently the remark would be quoted in the decades that followed. Time and experience continue to reveal to us the liabilities of democracy, but also – at least in certain societies – the nature of its surprising staying power. Well before Churchill’s time, democracy and how it works was a subject of fascination around the world. The same is true of its central issues, not the least of which is how to maintain the “informed citizenry” on which its operations supposedly depend.
The Internet Archive has just released its own kind of answer in the form of Democracy’s Library. “A free, open online compendium of government research and publications from around the world,” the site offers citizens a way to “enjoy useful research, learn about the workings of their government, hold officials accountable, and make more informed voters.” to be”.
The materials, which were collected by a variety of government agencies such as the United States National Agricultural Library, the Foreign Broadcast Information Service and the National Institute of Standards and Technology Research Library, as well as Statistics Canada and Public Accounts of Canada, were allegedly produced for the public , but were not always easy to find. In total there are more than 500,000 documents in the collection.
“Governments have created and made a wealth of information publicly available, but it turns out the public cannot easily access it,” said Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive. He is giving one of the lecture series that includes Building Democracy’s Library, the opening ceremony that took place last week, which you can still watch in the video above. His filing goes into great detail about the acquisition and organizational efforts that went into this project, as well as the nature of its mission. Because it’s not just about documenting democracy, but about strengthening it by making the information it produces available to as many citizens as conveniently as possible. And no matter what country you citizen yourself in, you can start browsing Democracy’s Library here.
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Colin Marshall is a Seoul based writer and broadcasterts about cities, language and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter books about cities, the book The stateless city: a stroll through 21st-century Los Angeles and the video series The city in the cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.