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Monday, March 11, 2013

BHL Image Collection on EOL!

The Floral Magazine, v. 6, pl. 342.
The Biodiversity Heritage Library now has its own collection of images in the Encyclopedia of Life! This collection is comprised of images that have been tagged with species name machine tags, relating the species depicted in each image. The collection currently comprises over 2,000 images representing over 2,300 taxa, and will continue to grow as additional illustrations are tagged in the BHL Flickr.

The BHL Flickr


By now, you're no doubt aware of the Biodiversity Heritage Library Flickr, which provides free access to over 65,000 illustrations gleaned from the BHL collections. These images span over five hundred years and range in topic from fish to reptiles, mammals to birds, insects to mollusks, and everything in between!

Building the Collection: Tagging Images


To make it easier for you to search our Flickr collection and for us to share images with external websites like EOL, we're adding species name machine tags to our images, and we've been encouraging you to help us do this.

A tag is basically a searchable keyword that you can add to an image to describe it, and a machine tag is a tag with special formatting to allow it to be read by computers. Thus, a species name machine tag is a tag that describes the species depicted in an image in a format that can be understood by computers.

When you add species name machine tags to our images, you as a user can not only search the BHL Flickr and retrieve any images tagged with a desired name, but these images can also automatically be uploaded to EOL and associated with the corresponding species page.

Example of an image from the BHL Flickr automatically associated with the EOL species page for Carduelis barbata, the Black-chinned Siskin, because a species name machine tag was added to the image in Flickr.

The format for species name machine tags is "taxonomy:binomial=Genus species," where "Genus" and "species" are replaced with the particulars of the organism you're describing. You can replace "binomial" with another taxonomic tag, such as "genus" or "family", if you can only identify the organism at that level. Learn more about the Flickr tagging process and machine tag formats in our previous blog post.

The images in the new EOL Collection are images from the BHL Flickr that have a species name machine tag associated with them. Each time new images are tagged in the BHL Flickr, they will automatically be added to our collection in EOL, as well as associated with appropriate species pages.

You Can Help us Grow this Collection!


With over 65,000 images in our Flickr collection to date, and that number growing daily, it's impossible for BHL staff to tag all of our images by ourselves. That's why we need your help! You can help us by adding species name machine tags to our images in Flickr. All you have to have is a free Flickr account to add tags to BHL images.

Once you're signed in to Flickr, browse our collection of images and when you see some with species you can identify, simply click "add a tag" and add the species name in the machine tag format ("Taxonomy:Binomial=Genus species"). Be sure to include the quotation marks around your machine tag.

Many images actually have the species name printed on the plate itself. In these cases, you can simply transcribe that name as a tag for the image. If the species is not identified on the plate, navigate to the book in BHL to find the associated description pages outlining the species depicted. We encourage you to tag the image with the species name provided by the book itself, but if that name is no longer valid, and you know the current, accepted name, feel free to add that name as an additional tag to the image.

Adding a species name machine tag to an image in the BHL Flickr. Click this image to enlarge for better viewing.

If there are multiple species depicted on an image, add a separate tag for each species depicted (or as many as you can identify). Make sure that all of your tags are at the same taxonomic level, i.e. all species tagged at the species level or the genus level or the family level, etc. Get more tips about adding tags from EOL.

Every time you add a species name machine tag to an image in our Flickr, you're growing the BHL EOL Collection, as your tagged images will automatically be added to that collection (images harvested weekly).

You can learn more about the in-person tagging parties we've had at the Smithsonian's Natural History Museum on our blog. We plan to host another of these parties, with an ocean theme, in April. While these events have thus far only been open to Smithsonian Staff, we hope to host public events in the future. 

We hope we've inspired you to help us identify life on earth, as portrayed through some of the most incredible scientific illustrations ever created! Keep exploring, and keep tagging!

Visit the BHL Image Collection on EOL today!


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