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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

BHL hosts our 1st UMich Alt. Spring Break Intern: Irina Zeylikovich

Irina Zeylikovich
I knew I was going to have a good University of Michigan School of Information Alternative Spring Break when my project mentor, Bianca Crowley, told me to meet at the Easter Island head. But that’s just how the Biodiversity Heritage Library rolls.
Not a Dum-Dum!


Part of BHL is currently housed in the Smithsonian’s National Museum in Natural History, so on Monday March 4, I purposefully strode through it’s grand doors to begin my weeklong project on creating social media campaigns that would cast a wider net and draw more people to the amazing content that the Biodiversity Heritage Library has online.

My project involved a dual approach – I would work on both a sustainable workflow that made sense for the BHL staff to actively utilize and continue after my departure, as well as a list of topics that had the potential to pique the interest of lots of people and also had relevant content in BHL. I began with an environmental scan to understand how other peer institutions were engaging audiences on social media, as well as locating storytelling best practices and effective marketing tools for BHL’s ready reference later. Then came the bulk of the project: establishing the workflow and generating campaign ideas.

After looking at several options, my project mentors and I decided on two types of shared documents: a high-level list of campaign ideas that included additional information such as date dependencies (for example, if the campaign was tied to a commemorative month, such as the recent Women’s History Month campaign). Each of the campaigns listed in that document would also link to a much more detailed campaign file that would hold resources – factoids, links to BHL images, peer organizations, hashtags, relevant Facebook pages, etc. – to assist in creating content for the campaign itself. The remainder of my time was spent fleshing out one of the campaigns, but I won’t spoil the surprise – you’ll just have to wait to read it!

Bianca also treated me to a phenomenal last day fit for every (future) librarian: a visit to the Library of Congress for a lecture by the director of the Bibliotheca Alexandria, Ismail Serageldin – a truly gifted speaker and inspiration to all librarians (and in my opinion, all educators in general). We followed this with a visit to the US Copyright Office to doublecheck the copyright status of a work that was likely going to be digitized and added to the BHL online collection. This was truly a revelation for me since the copyright claims before 1978 have not been digitized yet, so we sought our claimants amidst rooms of card catalogs.
Inside the US (C) Office Catalog Room
Copyright register card example
"Snowquester" but where's the snow?
I learned quite a bit in my brief (even a little briefer than normal thanks to Wednesday’s "Snowquester") week with BHL. I manage a blog as my role at the Taubman Health Sciences Library, but am far less involved on other social media, so this was a great addition to my professional experience, and I hope that my efforts help a truly wonderful organization with incredibly dedicated staff. I know I’m in the right field when I hear colleagues discussing the amazing power of metadata and when I can witness the discovery of hidden collections. I was also able to see the amount of labor required to make this process a reality. Having so much of the content users normally interact with being born digital, I think we forget that for every page of a hand-printed/illustrated work that goes online, someone had to find the work, check its copyright status, scan it carefully page by page, tag as much with metadata (otherwise how would you have found that there is a gorgeous illustration of a lemur on that page?) as is feasible, create a platform to keep all of these pages online, and lastly get you to actually see it.

The most rewarding aspect of my time at BHL is undoubtedly seeing how people far and wide use these collections in ways the original creators could never have anticipated: in art, historical analysis, biodiversity research, and climate change tracking. If my efforts over Alternative Spring Break can lead even one additional person to BHL’s content where they may not have known about it before, that’ll make for a pretty thrilled (future) librarian.

-Irina Zeylikovich @sfobound

Friday, March 22, 2013

BHL Named a 2013 Computerworld Honors Program Laureate!

Image from: http://www.cwhonors.org/2013/honorsprogram2013.htm

IDG’s Computerworld Honors Program announced on March 19, 2013 The Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) as a 2013 Laureate. The annual award program honors visionary applications of information technology promoting positive social, economic and educational change.

“Technology continues to play a pivotal role in transforming how business and society functions. For the past 25 years the Computerworld Honors Program has had the privilege of celebrating innovative IT achievements,” said John Amato, vice president & publisher, Computerworld. “Computerworld is honored to recognize the outstanding accomplishments of the 2013 class of Laureates and to share their work. These projects demonstrate how IT can advance organizations' ability to compete, innovate, communicate and prosper.”

“The BHL,” said Martin R. Kalfatovic, BHL Program Director, “has been a leader in the world of digital libraries since its founding in 2006. To have the collaborative and innovative nature of the now global partnership in the pursuit of an open and accessible resource for the literature of life recognized with this award is a tribute to the staff of the many institutions that have participated in the BHL program since its inception.”

The Computerworld Honors Program awards will be presented at the Gala Evening and Awards Ceremony on June 3, 2013 at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, D.C.

About The Computerworld Honors Program 


Founded by International Data Group (IDG) in 1988, The Computerworld Honors Program is governed by the not-for-profit Computerworld Information Technology Awards Foundation. Computerworld Honors is the longest running global program to honor individuals and organizations that use information technology to promote positive social, economic and educational change. Additional information about the program and a Global Archive of past Laureate case studies, as well as oral histories of Leadership Award recipients can be found at the Computerworld Honors website.

About Computerworld 


Computerworld is the leading source of technology news and information for IT influencers, providing peer perspective, IT leadership and business results. Computerworld’s award-winning website, bi-weekly publication, focused conference series, custom solutions and custom research forms the hub of the world’s largest (40+ edition) global IT media network and provides opportunities for IT solutions providers to engage this audience. Computerworld leads the industry with an online audience of over 3.5 million unique, monthly visitors (Omniture, August 2012) and was recognized as the Best Website by ASBPE and TABPI in 2012. Computerworld is published by IDG Enterprise, a subsidiary of International Data Group (IDG), the world’s leading media, events and research company. Company information is available at http://www.idgenterprise.com/.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Woman Naturalist: Mary Anning

Portrait of Mary Anning with her dog Tray and the Golden Cap outcrop in the background, Natural History Museum, London. This painting was owned by her brother Joseph, and presented to the museum in 1935 by Miss Annette Anning.
On March 9th, the world marked the 166th anniversary of the death of Mary Anning, one of the bravest and most diligent amateur naturalists in history. Despite remarkable discoveries for which she was well compensated, her status as a self-taught, working-class woman meant that Mary Anning’s existence in the published record of science is spotty at best. Her story is nearly unbelievable from the start.

Mary Anning was born on May 21, 1799, in the seaside community of Lyme Regis, in the south of England. From the outset, she had an eventful life; she was named after an older sister who perished in a house fire, and at the age of 14 months, young Mary was the sole survivor of a lightening strike that claimed three members of her community. Her father, Richard, was a cabinetmaker, but also a fossil collector who sold his finds to the visitors of Lyme Regis beaches. When he died in 1810, the Anning family fell into debt. It was in 1811 that Mary’s older brother Joseph found the skull of a “crocodile” in the cliffs near their home, prompting Mary to investigate further. Nearly one year later, she had located the complete skeleton and hired help to free the fossil from the cliff. This specimen is usually considered the first Ichthyosaurus to be found (although reexamination of the historical shows that earlier specimens were discovered earlier), and its description and image were published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society in 1814. Noticeably absent from this paper is any credit due to Mary Anning or her brother.

Mary sold the famous Ichthyosaur skeleton for a handsome sum, following in her father’s footsteps and quickly becoming the family breadwinner. In December 1823, Mary’s next major discovery came to light; it was the nearly complete Plesiosaurus described in the Transactions of the Geological Society of London; once again, Mary Anning is not credited by name in the paper.

Image of Mary Anning's Plesiosaur from Transactions of the Geological Society of London. ser. 2 vol. 1.

It is around this time that Mary Anning became an object of fascination to the scientific community. Visitors came to Lyme Regis to meet her, including scientists and collectors from around Europe and the United States. The next decade continued to be a productive one, as she found the first Pterosaur ever discovered in Great Britain; the flying reptile captured the public imagination and her fame spread outside of scientific circles, possibly because she was named in the paper. She also unearthed more complete Plesiosaur and Ichthyosaur specimens, correctly identified coprolites as fossil feces, discovered a remarkable fossil fish named Squaloraja, a creature illustrating the link between sharks and rays, and found specimens of the invertebrate Belemnosepia with intact fossil ink sacs, containing viable ink that could be used for drawing. By the late 1820s, Mary’s work was recognized and her new discoveries often published by William Buckland, the great geologist who described the bones of the giant reptile he dubbed Megalosaurus, which we now recognize as the first published description of a dinosaur.

Image of Mary Anning's Pterosaur from Transactions of the Geological Society of London. ser. 2 vol. 3.


Mary Anning's letter to the Magazine of Natural History. n.s. vol. 3, 1839.
Mary’s fame continued to grow, and she continued to operate her fossil shop in Lyme Regis, selling significant specimens to scientists, collectors, and museums. In 1838, she was recognized by the British Association for the Advancement of Science with a special yearly stipend of £25. In 1846, the Geological Society of London arranged further funds for her welfare. Sadly, in 1847, Mary Anning died of breast cancer at the age of 47. She was honored with an obituary published in the Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society of London, a particularly remarkable tribute given that the Society was not open to women at this time.

I mentioned that Mary Anning is not well represented in the published literature. In fact, there is only one item known to be authored by her, a letter she wrote to The Magazine of Natural History, published in 1839 and available here in the Biodiversity Heritage Library.

We hope you enjoyed this post. Interested in guest-blogging for BHL? We'd love that! Natural history, biodiversity and conservation topics are especially welcomed. Email us your ideas at feedback@biodiversitylibrary.org.

Rebecca Morin | Head Librarian, California Academy of Science

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Shaping Public Perception of Africa: David Livingstone

Happy Birthday, David Livingstone!


David Livingstone. Missionary Travels.
"Dr. Livingstone, I presume?"

Most of us have heard that famous phrase, uttered by Henry Morton Stanley of the New York Herald upon finding David Livingstone in Ujiji, Tanzania, on November 10, 1871.  However, just because you know the phrase doesn't mean you know the man. Come with us as we explore this legendary explorer, in celebration of the 200th anniversary of his birth!

Humble Origins


David Livingstone was the second of seven children born to a tea salesman in Blantyre, Scotland in 1813. From the age of ten, he worked in a cotton mill spending twelve hours a day tying broken threads on spinning machines. Fortune, however, had him destined for much greater things. At 23 years old, he entered Anderson's University in Glasgow to study medicine, and in 1840, after completing his studies in London, he was licensed as a physician and ordained as a missionary. Originally intending to serve in China, Livingstone was inspired by the convictions of Robert Moffet, a missionary stationed at Kuruman, a missionary outpost in South Africa. Thus, Livingstone began his lifelong affair with Africa and set out in 1840 as a medical missionary to South Africa. He would spend the rest of his life exploring Africa, with only two visits to England over the subsequent 32 years.

An Account of More than a Decade in Africa

 


Livingstone recounted his explorations and experience in Africa between 1840 and 1856 in his acclaimed publication Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa. One of the nineteenth century's best-selling books, Missionary Travels established Livingstone's reputation as not only an exciting explorer, but also a kind-hearted humanitarian aching to improve conditions for Africans.

Missionary Travels is a narrative compilation of Livingstone's personal field diaries.  Livingstone was careful to construct the composition to appeal to both scientific and religious readers, hoping to encourage further positive involvement in Africa. The work also includes 47 illustrations - most crafted by Captain Henry Need and Joseph Wolf.

Livingstone published the work with John Murray, one of the era's most renowned publishers of geographical books. Murray was so anxious to secure the publication that he offered to finance all expenses in return for only one-third of the profit obtained.  

The Missionary's Escape from the Lion. Missionary Travels.

The most famous illustration in Missionary Travels is entitled "The Missionary's Escape from the Lion," which depicted Livingstone pinned by a lion with his fellow travelers attempting to rescue him. Livingstone called the illustration "abominable," asserting that "[e]veryone who knows what a lion is will die with laughing at it." Murray ignored Livingstone's dissatisfaction and included the illustration, knowing that most people reading Missionary Travels would not have the knowledge necessary to detect its absurdity. Furthermore, Murray understood that many audiences might never actually read the book but experience it only through illustrations. Thus, it was necessary to craft a dramatic story through images alone.

12,000 copies of the first edition of the book published in 1857, and, even at a price of one guinea each, sold out immediately. Several additional printings were ordered, selling with such success that Murray did not publish a cheaper, abridged version of the work (A Popular Account of Missionary Travels in South Africa) until 1861.


An Explorer at Heart


Stanley and Livingstone meet. Illustration from The Illustrated London News, 1872
As Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa confirms, though a missionary, Livingstone spent much of his career exploring the wilds of Africa. Enthused by Livingstone's discoveries as related in his book, the British government funded an expedition up the Zambezi River (1858-64), tasked with uncovering a route between the upper Zambezi and the coast. Extensive rapids past Cabora Bassa unfortunately made negotiating the river to the coast impossible, and the British government recalled the expedition 1864. Though unsuccessful, naturalists in the expedition party collected a wealth of valuable specimens during the six years of the expedition.

From 1866-67, Livingstone led a privately-funded expedition to discover the source of the Nile, which was debated at that time to be either Lake Albert or Lake Victoria. Arriving at Lake Bangweulu on November 8, 1867, Livingstone mistakenly asserted it as the upper reaches of the Nile. In truth, the source of the Nile lies in the high mountains of Burundi.

By the end of the Nile expedition, Livingstone's public image was suffering due to the failures of his expeditions and reports that Livingstone was a poor leader and manager. After 1867, Livingstone's health failed and he lost contact with the outside world completely, prompting the New York Herald to send Henry Morton Stanley in search of him in 1869. Stanley located him in Ujiji in 1871, and the article he later published about Livingstone restored public opinion of him, casting him as a great hero of adventure and discovery. However, despite Stanley's urging to return to England to recover his health, Livingstone refused. He died in 1873 in present-day Zambia. His heart was buried under a Mvula tree and his body was transported to England, where it was interred at Westminster Abbey.

Though many of the expeditions that Livingstone undertook were unsuccessful at achieving the undertakings' primary goals, the discoveries made along the way, and the natural riches recorded - many for the first time for Western people - made a monumental impact on the future of African exploration, understanding, and native relations.

A Monumental Legacy


Victoria Falls. Based on sketches by David Livingstone. Missionary Travels.

David Livingstone left behind an impressive legacy. He was the first European to successfully complete a transcontinental journey across southern Africa. He was the first European to see Victoria Falls, which he named after the British Monarch of the time. He discovered for Western science many locales throughout Africa, including Lake Tanganyika, Lake Ngami, Lake Mweru, Lake Bangweulu, and the upper Zambezi River. He was instrumental in increasing European awareness of the horrors of the slave trade in Africa and encouraging equitable, rather than dictatorial, European relations and fair commercial interactions with Africa. His explorations and zeal for Africa inspired and enabled future missionaries to serve in Africa, providing valuable medical and educational support.

He was awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Geographical Society and memorials exist for him throughout Africa, the United Kingdom, and North America. Today, we celebrate the scientific contributions, as well as the humanitarian considerations, of this icon of nineteenth century science and exploration. Happy Birthday, David Livingstone!

Additional Livingstone Resources



We hope you enjoyed this post. Interested in guest-blogging for BHL? We'd love that! Natural history, biodiversity and conservation topics are especially welcomed. Email us your ideas at feedback@biodiversitylibrary.org.

- Grace Costantino | Program Manager, Biodiversity Heritage Library

Monday, March 18, 2013

Announcing the New Biodiversity Heritage Library!


The Homepage of the New BHL! Click image to enlarge.

Today the Biodiversity Heritage Library released a new user interface, including an updated website design, improved book navigation, and article-level access to collections. The new interface was informed by usability studies and is based on the design and functionality of the BHL-Australia portal.

Current Improvements Include:


  • Updated Design: The website's design has been upgraded to reflect the celebrated aesthetics of the BHL-Australia portal. 
  • Article and Chapter Access: The ability to search BHL by article or chapter titles has been implemented. To date, over 81,000 articles and chapters have been indexed and are searchable within BHL. Additional articles and chapters will become available as the collections continue to be indexed.
  • Open Data Enhancements: BHL's APIs, OpenURL interface, and Data Exports have been modified to include available article and chapter information.
  • Book Viewer Updates: The BHL book viewer has been updated, allowing users to view multiple columns of pages on screen at once and more easily navigate to a specific page within a book. Users can also view OCR text alongside page images, and, where the books have been indexed, users can navigate directly to the articles or chapters within using a new Table of Contents feature.
  • PDF Creation Improvements: The custom PDF creation process has been improved, allowing users to select pages for their PDF while in the book-viewer mode and more easily review the PDF before creation. Learn more about the new creation process in our Guide!

New and Improved BHL Book Viewer, with option to view multiple columns of pages at once and view OCR text alongside page images. Select books also have a Table of Contents feature which displays the articles/chapters identified within the text, with the ability for users to click on each to navigate directly to the corresponding part. Click image to enlarge.

New custom-PDF creation process, with ability to select pages for your PDF while viewing them and review your PDF before generation. Click image to enlarge.


Upcoming Improvements Include:


  • Improved Taxon Name Finding Algorithms: BHL will soon implement a new algorithm capable of identifying previously undiscovered taxon names throughout the BHL corpus. Test applications of this algorithm have already resulted in an increase of nearly 50 million names instances in BHL, translating to over 20 million unique names identified. These newly-identified names are currently available in BHL.

These developments follows BHL's December, 2012, milestone achievement of providing access to over 40 million pages and over 110,000 volumes of freely-available biodiversity literature.

Explore the changes to BHL in-depth in our Guide to the New BHL.

We'd like to send a special thanks to everyone who made the new BHL possible. To start, thanks to the BHL-Australia team for their contributions to the process. First, to those who designed and developed the original BHL-Australia portal on which our new website is based, we thank Simon O'Shea (Designer) and Michael Mason (Developer). Secondly, to the BHL-Australia staff that worked with the US staff to merge the two UIs, we thank Simon Sherrin and Ajay Ranipeta (Developers) and Simone Downey (Designer - design based on original design by Simon O'Shea). And finally, a special thanks to Ely Wallis, BHL-Australia Director and Chair of the Global BHL Executive Committee, who selflessly supported the dedication of her staff's time to this process.

Secondly, thanks to all of the members of the BHL TAG (Technical Advisory Group), including William Ulate (BHL Technical Director, Missouri Botanical Garden), Joe deVeer (Harvard-MCZ), John Mignault (The New York Botanical Garden), Joel Richard (Smithsonian Libraries), Jenna Nolt (United States Geological Survey), Francis Webb (Cornell University), Keri Thompson (Smithsonian Libraries), and Chris Freeland (Washington University). Furthermore, thanks to the Missouri Botanical Garden for hosting the BHL Technical Team, whose hard work made this vision a reality!

Thirdly, we would like to thank everyone who helped alpha and beta test the new site to ensure that our users' experience would be the best that it could possibly be. Specifically, thanks to Rod Page, Pat LaFollette, and Francisco Welter-Schultes, BHL superstar users, for the valuable user-perspective input they provided. 

Finally, we'd like to give a standing ovation to BHL's Lead Developer, Mike Lichtenberg (Missouri Botanical Garden), who has dedicated countless hours over the past year to creating, with the support of all mentioned above, the new Biodiversity Heritage Library!

 Big News Across the Pond: Launching BHL-Europe


Coinciding with the launch of our new portal, the BHL-Europe portal is also officially launching today. Providing access to material scanned from 92 content providers in Europe and the United States (including a subset of the BHL-US/UK corpus), the BHL-Europe collection currently comprises over 6,000 items, constituting over 1 million pages, of open access biodiversity literature, with more content being added daily. BHL-Europe’s content is also available through the Europeana portal. And, while you’re exploring BHL-Europe, be sure to check out Biodiversity Library Exhibitions (BLE), online exhibitions from BHL-Europe featuring books, images, stories and factoids about such topics as expeditions, spices, and poisonous nature.

Congratulations to all of our colleagues at BHL-Europe on the exciting launch of your new portal! Click here to learn more about the BHL-Europe launch.

We hope you'll be as excited about all of these changes as we are! Visit the new and improved Biodiversity Heritage Library today! Explore the improvements in the "Guide to the New BHL." Also, be sure to check out the new BHL-Europe portal and their online exhibitions! Tell us what you think of our improvements by sending us feedback, writing to feedback@biodiversitylibrary.org, or leaving a comment on this post.



Friday, March 15, 2013

A Consortium that Scans Together, Bands Together

Over the years, the BHL consortium has grown from its initial core of 10 members to now 15 member institutions across the United States and the United Kingdom. Find out more about who we are with this handy, interactive Google map:

View BHL Consortium Institutions in a larger map

While each institution contributes its own unique set of materials to the BHL collection, many of our collections share similar materials. Thank goodness we do because we rely on each other to help fill in gaps in the BHL corpus. But this is easier said than done. Have you ever tried to amass a complete set of 90+ year old objects into one place?!

The quick and dirty explanation of our digitization process is as follows -- BHL consortium libraries:

  1. Work together to select books for scanning
  2. Do our best to make sure we don't send the same materials for scanning, i.e. "de-duplication"
  3. Send the books from our shelves for scanning to various Internet Archive locations or to our own institutional scanning centers
  4. Send the bibliographic data from our library catalogs
  5. Render derivative files, such as the OCR (optical character recognition) text files
  6. Aggregate the data files and images for every page of every book scanned into our back-end database managed by the Missouri Botanical Garden
  7. Serve it all up via our website: http://biodiversitylibrary.org

And for those of us who prefer visuals:

Steps 1 and 2 can get complicated. Fast. Which is why we need the tools to help us coordinate who's scanning what, when. To manage our communications we use an issue tracking system, in our case Countersoft's Gemini system. Whenever you submit feedback via our website, a new issue, or ticket, is created in our system which we route to the appropriate BHL Staff for follow up. Send us feedback telling us something's missing from our collection and we'll try to find the BHL library who can send it for scanning. Sounds easy enough, right?

Wrong. Enter an old journal series which over the course of decades, centuries even, can modify its scope, alter its publication title and alter it again (and again…). Combine this with the changing practices of the printing, bookbinding, and library industries over the course of history and you have quite the task to gather the various pieces of the puzzle and arrange them into the complete picture of a publication.

Bibliography of Asiatic Society publications,
The Journal of the Asiatic Society is one of my favorite examples of how the BHL member libraries work together to accomplish this task.  The Journal changed its title various times since the late 18th Century and we have 4 of them in the BHL starting with Asiatick Researches (1788-1849) to the Journal and the Proceedings of the Asiatic Society (1905-1934). Since we started digitizing books for the BHL in 2007, this series has called on 7 different libraries to send various volumes for scanning in an effort to complete the digital set. The work still continues today. With so many libraries involved, it is not uncommon for there to be 3 different ways the titles were cataloged and 5 different ways the volumes were bound, for example, making the work of selection and de-duplication rather tricky.

Without systems that allow us to communicate in detail about who's scanning precisely what, when, we'd have no way to aggregate 15 different physical library collections into a single BHL collection online. Our issue tracking system is just one of many tools that we use to communicate across various aspects of our digitization workflow. However, the tools would not mean anything if it were not for the hard work and collaborative spirit of the librarians throughout our consortium.

--Bianca Crowley | BHL Collections Coordinator

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!


Thursday, March 7, 2013

Celebrating Women's History Month: Jeanne Baret, the Man who was a Woman

Notable Women in Natural History in iTunes U. Illustration by Maria Sibylla Merian from Metamorphosis insectorum surinamensium
March is Women's History Month, and BHL is celebrating by highlighting women that have made valuable contributions to biodiversity science.

All this week, we're publishing tweets and Facebook posts honoring notable women in natural history. We've also created a special collection in BHL featuring books written or illustrated by, or relating the contributions of, incredible female botanists, zoologist, explorers, and illustrators. We've made a selection of these titles available for free download in iTunes via our thirteenth iTunes U Collection: Notable Women in Natural History. Finally, we've gathered some of our favorite images illustrated by these illustrious women, or from publications written by them, and made them freely available for download and reuse in Flickr.

Today, we want to highlight an exceptional woman from natural history's chronicles: Jeanne Baret, or, as she was known during the time she spent as a man, Jean Baret. We've asked Baret expert, and former Life and Literature speaker, Dr. Sandra Knapp, to share this woman's fantastic experiences and contributions to scientific exploration and discovery.

Jeanne Baret: Around the World 250 Years Ago, Dressed as a Boy!

By Dr. Sandra Knapp


'Yesterday I checked on board the Étoile a rather peculiar event. For some time, a rumour had been circulating on the two ships that Mr de Commerçon’s [sic] servant, named Baré, was a woman. His structure, his caution in never changing his clothes or carrying out any natural function in the presence of anyone, the sound of his voice, his beardless chin, and several other indications had given rise to this suspicion and reinforced it.(De Bougainville’s Journal, 28–29 May 1768).

Image of Jeanne Baret. ‘MAD LLA BARÉ’, Engraving, artist unknown. From Navigazioni de Cook pel grande oceano e itorno al globo, Volume 2, 1816, Sonzogono e Comp, Milano.
Cross-dressing seems to have been a botanical fad in the 18th century – the great Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus (responsible for the system by which we name animals and plants today) famously posed in an authentic Sami costume from Lapland, not realising it was a woman’s outfit. Jeanne Baret (or Baré or Barrett – spelling was not as fixed and consistent in the 18th century as it is now) dressed as a boy to accompany the voyage of Louis-Antoine de Bougainville in circumnavigating the globe; the voyage itself was an exercise in saving face after the disastrous French defeat to the British during the Seven Years War (when Britain gained control of Quebec). The intrepid Baret certainly saw more of the world than the notoriously stay-at-home Linnaeus, even though her name today is not well-known.

The world of exploration in the 18th century was an overwhelmingly male one, so the story of the young woman who dressed as a man to explore the world has immense appeal. De Bougainville set off on the voyage in 1766 – this was the first French circumnavigation and the first of any nation to have on board professional naturalists to observe and record the plants and animals of new lands. The “professional” naturalist accompanying the voyage was Philibert Commerson (often spelled Commerçon); a friend of Voltaire’s and a correspondent of the great Linnaeus himself. Jeanne Baret, of peasant stock from the countryside in Burgundy, was Commerson’s housekeeper and lover–what we today would call his common-law wife. Jeanne was an “herb-woman” with knowledge of plants and their properties useful to Commerson –his teacher rather than only his assistant. She was obviously adventurous and had considerable determination and sticking power – it had to be difficult to overcome not only gender but class barriers in order to stow away on the ship and even trickier to survive once her secret was out. The collaborative partnership between Baret and Commerson in the discovery of the botanical and zoological wonders is unique in the history of science.

The route of the Bougainville voyage around the world. From Voyage autour du monde, par la frégate du roi La Boudeuse, et la flûte L'Étoile; en 1766, 1767, 1768 and; 1769,

Women’s disguising themselves as men was not unknown – Hannah Snell dressed as a man and enlisted in the British Marines in 1745, serving for 5 years including tours of India; her book The Female Soldier, published in 1750, was immensely popular. Just how Jeanne Baret came to dress as a young man and accompany Commerson as his assistant Jean Baret on the voyage is not known – De Bougainville’s official accounts of the voyage rather coyly place her “unmasking” in Tahiti. It does slightly beggar belief that a woman, however skilled at disguise, could conceal her gender on a ship for many months, where everyone lives cheek by jowl – but look at Hannah Snell! The journal kept by the ship’s surgeon François Vivès is the source for Glynis Ridley’s (1) contention that Baret was alone, unprotected by Commerson and sexually violated by the sailors from the Bondeuse and Étoile. That his diary is dripping with sexual innuendo is without doubt; he sounds a thoroughly unpleasant sort. Rather than on Tahiti, which the ships passed in April and May of 1767, Vivès puts the site of Baret’s unmasking and violation in June on the shores of New Guinea. De Bougainville’s story may have had more to do with his linking the discovery of Jeanne’s gender to the open society of the island; he was one of the first to romanticise Tahitian ways of life and love. 

Bougainvillea species, from Climbing Plants
Collecting plants is great fun, both Commerson and Baret must have been amazed at the wealth of diversity they encountered. Commerson wrote of Madagascar “I can announce to naturalists that this is the true Promised Land. Here nature created a special sanctuary where she seems to have withdrawn to experiment with designs different from those used anywhere else. At every step one finds more remarkable and marvellous forms of life.” In notes on specimens Commerson honoured high-ranking members of the expedition – the leader is commemorated in the lovely tropical vine Bougainvillea, Nassau-Siegen in Nassauvia, but Commerson himself did not publish any of these; he never made it back to France to write up the fruits of the teams’ labours. Bougainvillea was not formally described until 1789, and then only by Antoine Laurent de Jussieu, a French botanist who used Commerson’s specimens and his notes (2). It is interesting to see that early on in the voyage, in Brazil, many plants are “named” for members of the expedition, but later collections have more cursory notes, although he did propose Baretia for a Malagasy tree. Commerson’s Baretia was never published, not because someone wanted to do Jeanne Baret down, but that by the time the specimen made it back to Paris and into the hands of botanists, it was found that the genus already had a name; the principle of proirity had become the modus operandi for naming. After Commerson’s death, Jeanne married on Mauritius and returned to France in 1774. She was awarded a state pension from 1785 in recognition of her bravery and contributions, not really completely forgotten and lost in total obscurity, although she never did botany again.

Tepe E, Ridley G, Bohs L (2012) A new species of Solanum named for Jeanne Baret, an overlooked contributor to the history of botany. PhytoKeys 8: 37–47
She was more recently, however, commemorated in the specific name of a new species of Solanum from Ecuador – far from where she travelled and collected plants (3). Solanum baretiae Tepe et al. is a relative of the potato and tomato from the cloud forests of the Andes – its link to Baret is its highly variable leaves. Many species of Solanum have simple leaves, just an elliptical shape with no lobing, while others, like the potato, have divided leaves with several pairs of leaflets. Solanum baretiae has all kinds of leaves – simple and divided with varying numbers of leaflets – the authors decided to commemorate this by naming the species after Jeanne Baret – herself a master of disguise!

That we remember single men (and it is usually men) as the “heroes” of expeditions or of discoveries is not necessarily to denigrate the contributions of others; who, after all, refers to Captain Cook’s voyage of the Endeavour as “Banks’ voyage” or knows the names of the crew - the single-person reference is a sort of shorthand. Science was as collaborative then as it is now, without the efforts of the many little would be achieved. Jeanne Baret and other overlooked contributors to science like her deserve recognition and celebration, but she does not need to be a victim (as she was portrayed in Ridley’s book) to be seen as a success (4).

Jeanne Baret deserves our admiration not only for being the first woman known to have circumnavigated the world (although it took her quite a long time!), but for her significant botanical contributions in partnership with Commerson, even if they are not written down in quite the way we would record them now. You also have to respect the guts and determination of a woman who wanted to discover the world and just went ahead and did so - at a time when the hearthside was considered a woman’s place.

Explore the chronicles of Jeanne's adventures in Voyage autour du monde, par la frégate du roi La Boudeuse, et la flûte L'Étoile; en 1766, 1767, 1768 and; 1769, the publication relating the Bougainville voyage!

References and further reading
(1)    Ridley, G. (2010) The discovery of Jeanne Baret: a story of science, the high seas, and the first woman to circumnavigate the globe. Crown Publishers, New York, 1–288.
(2)    Lack, H.W. (2012) The discovery, naming and typification of Bougainvillea spectabilis (Nyctaginaceae). Willdenowia 42: 117-126.
(3)    Tepe, E.J., G. Ridley & L. Bohs (2012) A new species of Solanum named for Jeanne Baret, an overlooked contributor to botany. PhytoKeys 8: 37-47 doi: 10.3897/phytokeys.8.2101
(4)    Knapp, S. (2011) The planstswoman who dressed as a boy (review of Ridley’s “The discovery of Jeanne Baret”). Nature 470: 36-37.


- Post by Dr. Sandra Knapp, Merit Researcher, Head of Division, Life Sciences Plants Division, Natural History Museum, London
- Edits and Additional Contributions by Grace Costantino, Program Manager, Biodiversity Heritage Library

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Dr. Tomoko Steen: Library of Congress Representative to BHL

Dr. Tomoko Steen at the Easter Island Head, National Museum of Natural History
Two weeks ago, we announced that the Library of Congress has joined the Biodiversity Heritage Library, at the Steering Committee level, as our fifteenth member library. Today, we're excited to introduce you to Dr. Tomoko Steen, the Library of Congress representative to BHL.

Dr. Steen currently serves as a Senior Research Specialist in the Science, Technology, and Business Division at the Library of Congress. Wearing her academic hat, Dr. Steen has lectured at Johns Hopkins University, the George Washington University, Harvard University (in our own Museum of Comparative Zoology), Emory University, and Cornell University on such topics as Evolutionary Biology, Population Genetics, Radiation Health, History of Life Sciences, Bioethics and History of Asian Diplomacy and Science Policy. Prior to entering the academic career, she also worked as a licensed clinical pharmacologist both in Japan and the US.

She is the author of numerous books and articles covering broad range of topics from molecular evolutionary clock, history of radiation health, biological and nuclear weapons history, women in science, and biographies of two pioneer Japanese geneticists (Tomoko Ohta and Motoo Kimura).

Dr. Steen has been working with BHL Director, Martin Kalfatovic, Program Manager, Grace Costantino, and Collections Coordinator, Bianca Crowley, to integrate LoC into the BHL workflow, and is particularly eager to digitize rare books from LoC's collection. The Library of Congress has already contributed over one million pages to BHL to date. We are excited to welcome Dr. Steen and the Library of Congress into the BHL family, and look forward to the unique contribution they will make to the project.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Coming Soon! A New and Improved Biodiversity Heritage Library

Sneak Peek! The soon-to-be-released BHL homepage!


The BHL team has been hard at work for the past year developing a new user interface (which will become live on March 18, 2013!) based on usability studies and the design and functionality of the BHL-Australia portal. BHL-Australia staff* partnered with BHL-US/UK staff to merge the user-praised aesthetics and book viewer of the Au portal with the functionality of the US/UK portal.

Besides a whole new look and feel, users will be able to navigate more easily within books, with the ability to view multiple columns of pages on screen at once, scroll quickly to a specific page within the book, and view the book's OCR text alongside page images.


The new book viewer, which will include options to view multiple columns of pages on the screen at once and view OCR text alongside page images!


Users will also be able to select pages for their custom PDFs while in the book-viewer mode, allowing for easier PDF construction. They will also have the ability to review all pages in their PDF before generating it. And don't worry! You'll still be able to download the entire PDF and redirect easily to Internet Archive for more download options.

The new PDF generation process, which will allow you to select pages for your PDF while in book-viewer mode and review your PDF before generation.


Download options in the new book viewer.


Perhaps the most exciting enhancement, however, will be the ability to search for articles, chapters, and other book segments within BHL. Using algorithms developed by Rod Page of BioStor, a selection of BHL content has been broken down to individual articles and parts, which will be indexed and searchable on BHL. Furthermore, a new tab in the advanced search screen will make it even easier to search for specific articles. And, when you're viewing a book that has been broken down into its articles/chapters, a new Table of Contents feature will allow you to see all of those parts and redirect to each one with a single click. And of course, BHL's APIs, OpenURL interface, and Data Exports will be modified to include available article and chapter information.

The new advanced search, which includes the option to search specifically for articles, chapters, and other book segments.


At the time of release, we expect to have over 81,000 articles, chapters, and other segments available in BHL. Additional articles and chapters will become available as the collections continue to be indexed.

We've also been working to improve our name-finding algorithms. Shortly after the release of the new interface, we'll be implementing a new algorithm which will be able to identify more scientific names throughout the BHL corpus than ever before. That means, when you search for a species name in BHL, you'll get more results, thus receiving a more accurate reflection of the species' publication history.Test applications of this algorithm on a portion of the BHL corpus have already resulted in an increase in nearly 50 million name instances in BHL, translating to over 20 million new unique names identified. These newly-identified names are currently available in BHL.

When can you expect all of these wonderful improvements? The new user interface will launch on March 18, 2013! To get a sneak peek at the new interface and its functionality, check out "A Guide to the New BHL."  Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for more updates, and be sure to check back on our blog and BHL for the official announcement of the new BHL! 

* Thanks to the following BHL-Australia staff who contributed to the original BHL-Australia Design and the BHL-Au and BHL-US/UK merge: First, to those who designed and developed the original BHL-Australia portal on which our new website is based, we thank Simon O'Shea (Designer) and Michael Mason (Developer). Secondly, to the BHL-Australia staff that worked with the US staff to merge the two UIs, we thank Simon Sherrin and Ajay Ranipeta (Developers) and Simone Downey (Designer - design based on original design by Simon O'Shea). And finally, a special thanks to Ely Wallis, BHL-Australia Director and Chair of the Global BHL Executive Committee, who has selflessly supported the dedication of her staff's time to this process.