Saturday, May 9, 2009

BHL: 2 Years: 13 million pages: 12 million names: Chrismania!

Two years ago, on May 9th, Jonathan Fanton of the MacArthur Foundation officially launched the Encyclopedia of Life and it's key literature component, the Biodiversity Heritage Library.

Though the member libraries of the BHL had been working together in various ways since 2005, the official launch at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C. can be marked as the jump start to the project.

At the time of the launch, there were just over a million pages available online. Though the BHL portal soon hit 2 million pages by September 2007, the ensuing months, through today, saw an amazing explosion of scanning that result in today's (actually May 8, 2009) numbers:
  • 12,162 titles
  • 32,780 volumes
  • 13,158,954 pages
But the numbers alone don't reveal the dedication of all the staff at the member libraries and our partner, the Internet Archive, that have made this happen. Staff at the ten BHL member libraries in North America and the United Kingdom have worked on standards, protocols, and technical details to create the BHL you see today.

Scanning centers operated by the Internet Archive in Washington, D.C., New Jersey, Boston, London, and at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, have proven that affordable, open access mass scanning is a reality.

The BHL portal development team, based at the Missouri Botanical Garden has done amazing work along with our partners in the taxonomic community to create a cutting edge 21st century tool that will help people around the world better understand our planet.

And speaking of our users, in the past two years, we've seen nearly 400,000 visitors to our portal, from 224 countries and territories (see the map above).

In the coming years, we look forward to the expansion of BHL into Europe - with the kickoff of BHL-Europe just days away - and further partnerships around the world.

And because BHL is about life, I can't end without a link to some of the interesting things you can find in BHL. In the 13 million pages of BHL, there are 12,95,651 unique species names! I picked a random genus, Chrismania, a genus of moths of the Crambidae family. Take a look at what you kind of things you'll find in BHL!

The BHL development team will shortly launch even better tools to mine the historic taxonomic literature. I think we can safely say that, well, you ain't seen nothing yet!