Monday, February 25, 2008

Major updates to BHL Portal released

BHL developers have released several significant updates to the BHL portal today. These updates include:
  • Display of materials scanned by Internet Archive. BHL now manages more than 2.8 million pages from 7,500 digitized scientific texts. To stay updated on new titles, view our Recent Additions and subscribe to our feeds.
  • Filtering by Contributing Library. When users select "Browse By:" functions, they can filter results using the "For:" dropdown to view, for example, Authors from the New York Botanical Garden, or a Map of titles scanned by Smithsonian Institution Libraries, or Titles from All Contributors.
  • Feedback tracking. Users can submit feedback or comments on records using the Feedback link at the top of the portal.
For a complete list of bugs and enhancements included in this release, visit our issue tracking web site.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Happy Birthday Mr. Darwin!

Charles Darwin
Originally uploaded by Smithsonian Libraries
“The cultivation of natural science cannot be efficiently carried on without reference to an extensive library.” (1)
- Charles Darwin, et al (1847)

Today, February 12, 2008, we celebrate the 199th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin. Last year we honored the 300th anniversary of the birth of Carl Linné and next year will be the double celebrations for Darwin's bicentenary and the sesquicentennial (mark your calenders now for November 24th!) of the publication of On the Origin of Species. 2008 is thus a good year for those of us involved with the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) to pause for a moment between these landmark anniversary years of 2007 and 2009.

Those working in systematics and taxonomy are heavily dependent on the historic literature – to a greater extent than perhaps most of the sciences. This importance of the literature, as well as the ongoing importance of publication (and library deposit) to validate taxonomic concepts, contribute to the mission and continue to inform the day to day development of the BHL.

Darwin himself acknowledged the importance of library materials to the study of natural history in the passage quoted above (in a document signed by Darwin and over 30 other notables including Charles Lyell, W.J. Hooker, and Richard Owen) which was part of an appeal for support of natural history research at the British Museum.

- Martin Kalfatovic

Portrait of Charles Darwin by Ernest Edwards
From Scientific Identity: Portraits from the Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology. Smithsonian Institution Libraries

(1) Darwin, C. R. et al. 1847. Copy of Memorial to the First Lord of the Treasury [Lord John Russell], respecting the Management of the British Museum. Parliamentary Papers, Accounts and Papers 1847, paper number (268), volume XXXIV.253 (13 April): 1-3. [Complete Works of Charles Darwin Online]

Monday, February 4, 2008

BHL part of the "Biological Moon Shot"

Thomas Garnett of the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History heads a scanning and digitization group of encyclopedia workers. They are cooperating with the Biodiversity Heritage Library, a project through which 10 major libraries are scanning and placing on the Web pages from volumes that describe species. Some 80 million pages come from publications old enough to be in the public domain, and the scanners are starting with those.
The Feb. 2, 2008 issue of Science News includes an article by Susan Milius ("Biological Moon Shot") on the Encyclopedia of Life and the Biodiversity Heritage Library. BHL member staff Tom Garnett and Martin Kalfatovic are quote in the article.

In talking about the vital business of opening library resources to far-flung scientists, Garnett rolls his eyes at the mention of a specialized source for historians of science that has become one of the library's most popular downloads—the 1904 treatise Ants and Some Other Insects: An Inquiry Into the Psychic Powers of These Animals.