Thursday, July 28, 2016

Celebrating the Birds of South America

By Gretchen Rings 
Reference & Interlibrary Loan Librarian 
Gantz Family Collections Center, Science & Education 
The Field Museum

Plate 31: Le Cotinga pacapaca, male. Le Vaillant, François. Histoire naturelle d'une partie d'oiseaux nouveaux et rares de l'Amerique et des Indes. 1801. Digitized by The Field Museum of Natural History Library. Description on pages 66-69.
In honor of the first Olympics to take place in Brazil, we are highlighting a book contributed by The Field Museum featuring birds of South America, Le Vaillant’s Histoire naturelle d'une partie d'oiseaux nouveaux et rares de l'Amerique et des Indes (1801). Among several titles chosen for digitization from the Field Museum Library’s impressive Edward E. Ayer Ornithological Library, housed in the collections of the Mary W. Runnells Rare Book Room, the entry for the volume in Catalogue of the Edward E. Ayer Ornithological Library characterizes it as “a work intended to supplement his Hist. Nat. des Oiseaux d’Afrique (q.v.) by describing and figuring birds not properly included in that work.”

Published in eight parts, Histoire naturelle d'une partie d'oiseaux nouveaux et rares de l'Amerique et des Indes was available as a folio with both colored and uncolored plates; large quarto with colored plates only; and quarto, with uncolored plates only. Originally 240 plates were proposed, but ultimately only 49 were produced of species of Bucerotidae from Malay Archipelago and Cotingidae from South America. The Field Museum’s copy is a folio with both colored and uncolored plates.

Plate 37, color: Le Continga ouette, male. Le Vaillant, François. Histoire naturelle d'une partie d'oiseaux nouveaux et rares de l'Amerique et des Indes. 1801. Digitized by The Field Museum of Natural History Library. Descriptions on pages 81-83.

Plate 38, uncolored: Le Continga ouette, male. Le Vaillant, François. Histoire naturelle d'une partie d'oiseaux nouveaux et rares de l'Amerique et des Indes. 1801. Digitized by The Field Museum of Natural History Library. Description on pages 81-83.

Born to French naturalists in Paramaribo, Dutch Guiana (Suriname), François Le Vaillant (1753-1824) began collecting bird specimens and building his own “cabinet” (or collection of specimens) before the age of ten. The family returned to France in 1763, where Le Vaillant would eventually make connections with ornithologists, collectors, and patrons who would become supporters of his work.

Le Vaillant was one of the first naturalists to independently embark on long voyages to study subjects in the wild. Previous naturalists had generally conducted such fieldwork as part of larger scientific expeditions. Not an illustrator in his own right, Le Vaillant relied on renowned artist Jacques Barraband (1768-1890) and emerging technologies of the day to produce his books. As authors Sitwell and Buchanan point out: “One interesting and sometimes confusing point is that some famous books are known by the author’s name and not the artist. Le Vaillant...whose name appears on most of the great French bird books of that same period, was a naturalist who travelled far, but never drew any of the pictures for his books…”

Barraband painted the birds that Le Vaillant secured on his voyages in watercolors, which were then assembled using an “elaborate mixture of processes - engraving, etching, colour printing and hand-finishing” (Lambourne). Le Vaillant was fortunate in that Napoléon Bonaparte had imitated a policy of Louis XIV to create a series of publications that were then “sent as presents to crowned heads, men of science, and learned bodies, in evidence of the splendours of the this manner many glorious books came into being...The works of Le Vaillant owe their sumptuous character to the same impetus” (Sitwell and Buchanan).

Le Vaillant’s travel memoirs contributed as much to his fame in his lifetime as his illustrated bird books: due to its popularity, Travels into the interior parts of Africa : by the way of the Cape of Good Hope in the years 1780, 8l, 82, 83, 84, and 85 (contributed by Smithsonian Libraries) was translated into English and German. Feeling pressured to write a sequel, New travels into the interior parts of Africa : by the way of the Cape of Good Hope, in the years 1783, 84 and 85 (also contributed by Smithsonian Libraries), contains “an entirely fabricated account of a journey from the Orange River to the Tropic of Capricorn,” though this was not discovered until after his death (Pasquier and Farrand). Ultimately, despite any embellishments, Le Vaillant will be remembered for having produced some of the finest bird books ever created.

Map, Foldout: Map of M. Le Vaillant’s Two Journies in the Southern Part of Africa. New travels into the interior parts of Africa : by the way of the Cape of Good Hope, in the years 1783, 84 and 85. Digitized by The Smithsonian Libraries.

The images from Histoire naturelle d'une partie d'oiseaux nouveaux et rares de l'Amerique et des Indes are available in BHL's Flickr. Nearly all of them have been taxon tagged by volunteers with the scientific name of the species depicted, allowing you to easily determine the species in the image as well as search Flickr for one of the included species and find the image. Learn more about our citizen science Flickr tagging efforts.

Example of a taxon-tagged image from La Vaillant's Histoire naturelle d'une partie d'oiseaux nouveaux et rares de l'Amerique et des Indes in BHL's Flickr


  • Elphick, Jonathan. (2004). Birds. London: Scriptum Editions.
  • Lambourne, Maureen. (1990). The Art of Bird Illustration. London: Collins. 
  • Martin, H. Bradley. (1989). The Library of H. Bradley Martin : Magnificent Color-Plate Ornithology. Sotheby’s Catalogue of Sale. New York, NY: Sotheby’s. 
  • Pasquier, Roger F. and John Farrand. (1991). Masterpieces of Bird Art: 700 Years of Ornithological Illustration. New York: Abbeville Press. 
  • Sitwell, Sacheverell, Handasyde Buchanan, and James Fisher. (1990). Fine Bird Books: 1700-1900. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press. 
  • Stresemann, Erwin and G. William Cottrell. (1975). Ornithology from Aristotle to the Present. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

BHL paper delivered at 8th Shanghai International Library Forum in Shanghai

I had the honor of delivering an invited paper to the 8th Shanghai International Library Forum in Shanghai, China, 8 July 2016. The paper, Enabling Progress in Global Biodiversity Research: The Biodiversity Heritage Library, co-authored with Constance Rinaldo (Mayr Library, Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University and BHL Vice-Chair) covered BHL's growth from a project to a cornerstone of biodiversity infrastructure, where sustainability, appropriate expansion, and collaboration with national and pan-national digital libraries (Europeana, the Digital Public Library of America) became more important. With significant contributions relevant throughout the world, the BHL is integral to key databases and data aggregators (e.g. Tropicos, Global Biodiversity Information Facility, the Encyclopedia of Life), and has engaged the research community in tool development and content reuse. The paper was published in Libraries: Enabling Progress, The Proceedings of the Eighth Shanghai International Library Forum. Shanghai Scientific and Technological Literature Press, Shanghai, 2016, pp. 406-418.

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About the Forum:

It is organized by the Shanghai Library (Institute of Scientific and Technical Information of Shanghai) and co-organized by the Shanghai Society for Library Science and the Shanghai Society for Scientific & Technical Information. At this year's event, approximately 300 delegates from 27 countries attended.

#SILF2016 Getting ready to get underway here at the Shanghai Library IMG_20160707_090732 IMG_20160707_093207

The theme of the forum is "Libraries: Enabling Progress". The conference focused on hot issues and topics, the latest research achievements, innovative ideas, advanced technology and the latest developments related to the theme. It included in-depth and extensive academic discussions. Well-known experts and scholars were invited to present keynote speeches and thematic reports. To ensure the academic quality of this forum and attract more submissions, scholars of library and information science, managers of libraries and information agencies, and professionals from all fields at home and abroad were invited to submit papers and attend the conference.

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After opening congratulatory speeches by national and local politicians, the program began with a series of plenary sessions:
  • Libraries: A Call to Action. Donna SCHEEDER, IFLA President
  • Change and Innovation: Reflection on the Future Development of Librarianship in China. HAN Yongjin, Director, National Library of China
  • The Library and Cultural Transmission by YU Qiuyu, Chairman, Shanghai Library Council, China
Yu's talk was a highlight. A famous Chinese cultural scholar, theorist, cultural historian and writer, he discussed the key role of the library concept in the transmission and preservation of culture.

Qiuyu Yu
A second plenary session was chaired by Ai Cheng TAY, Deputy Chief Executive, National Library Board, Singapore and include the following talks:
  • Fiat Lux (Let there be Light!): a Vision for Re-imagining McGill Library Space for 2050. C. Colleen COOK, Trenholme Dean of Libraries, School of Information Science at McGill University in Montreal, Canada
  • New Digital Tools of the Jalisco Public Library as Mobile App, Renewal of Website and Intranet. Juan Manuel DURÁN JUÁREZ, Director, Public Library of Jalisco State, Mexico

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The BHL presentation followed on the second full day of the Forum and was well received by the audience.


Marc GILBERT, Lyon Municipal Library, France, introducing the session (above)

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society

The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) is a nonprofit organization based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, that offers a variety of gardening programs and activities to its members as well as the surrounding city and state. Its annual Philadelphia Flower Show is the largest and longest-running event of its kind, attracting florists, gardeners, and landscape designers from all over the world. The PHS has also produced many publications over the years, some of which are now available in BHL through the IMLS grant Expanding Access to Biodiversity Literature (EABL).

History of the PHS

Founded in 1827 with 80 members, the PHS provided a forum for serious growers interested in horticulture and its various applications, commercial and academic. At monthly meetings, members exhibited rare or unusual plants, discussed innovations in horticulture, tasted wine, and distributed among themselves cuttings and grafts of plants from all over the U.S. The PHS began a small library in 1828, and the following year held its first annual Philadelphia Flower Show. 

The Franklin Institute on South Seventh Street, site of the PHS's first meeting (from James Boyd's A History of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society 1827-1927)
Over the next several decades, many prominent seedsmen--some of them PHS members--exhibited at the Philadelphia Flower Show, including Henry Dreer, Robert Buist, Josiah Coates, and David Landreth. These men owned successful nurseries, and many of their catalogs can be found in BHL's Seed & Nursery Catalogs collection.

By 1842, the PHS library contained 450 volumes. It was expanded, and a librarian hired at a salary of $50 per year. By 1850, the library had doubled in size, becoming one of the largest horticultural collections in the country. In 1854, it narrowly avoided destruction in a fire that claimed the Philadelphia Museum. 

Around this time, the PHS began making recommendation to the Philadelphia City Council on which trees to eliminate and which to cultivate in public parks. This marked the beginning of PHS's longstanding efforts to bring gardening to urban spaces, efforts which continued in the decade preceding the Civil War, despite a decline in the Society's membership and finances. 

While its finances were still precarious after the Civil War, the PHS enjoyed increased membership, and in 1867 built its first Horticultural Hall. The more famous Horticultural Hall was built in Fairmount Park for the Centennial Exposition of 1876; PHS members actively contributed to the planning and execution of the Centennial, and the event afforded its members the opportunity to display their fruits and flowers. After the Centennial, PHS held its annual flower show in the new hall. The original hall was damaged in a fire in early 1881 and rebuilt later that year; it was completely destroyed by a second fire in 1893. A third hall was built in 1896, which was sold in 1917 in a time of financial hardship.

Interior of the first Horticultural Hall (from James Boyd's A History of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society 1827-1927)

The 20th century saw the PHS shift to a predominantly amateur membership, which continued to grow with each passing decade. During World War 2, its members were involved in the movement to plant "victory gardens" which could sustain families during a time of scarcity. Writing in the 1945 Yearbook of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, the Report of the President for the previous year asserted:

I feel we should all take pride in the condition of the Society, especially in the face of the changing economic conditions that have been brought about by the war. A planned economy, with all of its regimentation, has been forced upon us for the duration of the Second World War, and the end is not yet. Our important duty has been to keep alive human interest in the work of our Creator as we find it in plant life, which is the very sustenance of our existence. Horticulture, in truth, is refined from agriculture to fit the home and becomes the basis of its economy, from which our community and national economy and life are but mammoth developments. 

By the second half of the 20th century, the amateur-oriented activities of the PHS were clearly reflected in its publications, such as a members' newsletter that offered gardening tips, brief articles, and book recommendations. Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Flower Show continued to grow in size and prominence.

"Lawn Mowers Can Be Dangerous" from the PHS News, v.1 no.6 (1960)

The PHS Today

Currently, the PHS boasts a membership of 27,000. The Philadelphia Flower Show continues to be a major event every year, and in keeping with its early activities, the PHS remains heavily involved in creating civic landscapes, improving public parks, and planting community gardens in Philadelphia.

An exhibit at the 1997 Philadelphia Flower Show

The PHS McLean Library contains 15,000 volumes and is working to digitize many historic, public domain horticultural works as well as PHS publications. It has given BHL permission to add many of these to its own collection (where they will appear soon!), including: 
  • Yearbook of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (1925-1998)
  • PHS News (v.1-38, 1960-1997)
  • Philadelphia Spring Flower Show (1966-1997) [title varies]
  • Pennsylvania Gardens (v.1-4 (1937)
  • From Seed to Flower: Philadelphia 1681-1876 (1976)
  • Bulletin of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (v.1, nos.1-2 (1923))
  • The Green Scene (v.1-42, 1972-2014)
  • A History of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, 1827-1927 (1929)
  • America’s Garden Legacy: A Taste for Pleasure (1978)
Janet Evans, Associate Director of the McLean Library, says, "We made a contribute to digitization of horticultural material. I think it’s particularly important in horticulture, because so many of the older serials have never been well indexed, and yet they contain information that is of value to researchers today – historians, biographers, academics in the humanities as well as horticulturists." 

We are grateful to the PHS for their commitment to open access and their efforts to promote horticulture in Pennsylvania and across the world!

Patrick Randall
Community Manager
Expanding Access to Biodiversity Literature

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

April showers in-copyright content to BHL!

April, May, and June were busy months for processing license agreements and adding new in-copyright titles: 35 in all, bringing our total to 56 for the first half of 2016! Many licensors outside the BHL Consortium gave permission for their content, which adds contemporary scholarship to the collection already rich in legacy literature.
Below is the full list of in-copyright titles added between April 1st and June 30th, 2016. We thank the individuals and organizations who so generously gave BHL permission to make them available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license:

  1. Ohio Coleopterist Society
    1. Ohio Beetles Bulletin (2009--)
  2. Wim Vader and fellow editors
    1. Amphipod Newsletter (1972--)
  3. Maryland Ornithological Society
    1. Field List of the Birds of Maryland (3rd. Ed.)
    2. Maryland Birdlife (1945--)
    3. The Yellowthroat (1980--)
  4. Mantis Study Group
    1. Mantis Study Group Newsletter (1996-2007)
  5. Phasmid Study Group
    1. Phasmid Studies (1992--)
  6. Mary Bamas Pomeroy
    1. Favorite Wildflowers of the West Coast
  7. New York Entomological Society
    1. Bulletin of the Brooklyn Entomological Society (1923-1965)
    2. Entomologica Americana (1926-1975)
    3. Journal of the New York Entomological Society (1923-1999)
  8. Western Carolina Botanical Club
    1. Shortia (1979--)
  9. Southern California Botanists
    1. A Flora of the Santa Rosa Plateau, Southern California 
    2. Crossosoma (1975--)
    3. Endangered Plant Communities of Southern California
    4. Flora and Ecology of the Santa Monica Mountains (1st and 2nd Eds.)
    5. Leaflets (1992--)
    6. SCB News (1973-1991)
  10. Arkansas Native Plant Society
    1. Claytonia (1981--)
  11. Pacific Seabird Group
    1. Pacific Seabird Group Bulletin (1974-1993)
    2. Pacific Seabirds (1994--)
  12. Arnold Arboretum at Harvard University
    1. Bulletin of Popular Information (1911-1939)
    2. Arnoldia (1940--)
  13. Wildlife Conservation Society
    1. Zoologica (1907-1973)
  14. Micropalaeontological Society
    1. A Stereo-Atlas of Ostracod Shells (1973-1999)
  15. Delaware Native Plant Society
    1. The Turk's Cap (1998--)
  16. Tennessee Ornithological Society
    1. The Migrant (1930--)
    2. The Tennessee Warbler (2000--)
  17. Wilson Ornithological Society
    1. The Wilson Bulletin (1894-2005)
    2. The Wilson Journal of Ornithology (2006--)
  18. Queensland Museum
    1. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum (1912--)
  19. Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria
    1. Muelleria: An Australian Journal of Botany (1995--)
  20. Illinois Ornithological Society
    1. Meadowlark (1992--)
  21. Northern California Botanists
    1. Botanical Leaflets (2007--)
As in the previous quarter, most of the new titles are the result of the Expanding Access to Biodiversity Literature (EABL) project. EABL solicits print and digital materials from content providers across the United States, including small organizations with unique publications that reflect their niche research areas.

If you would like more information about how copyright information is displayed in BHL and how in-copyright content may be used, see the Licensing and Copyright page on the BHL wiki; for information about how to contribute in-copyright content and the complete list of in-copyright titles that BHL has secured permission for to date, see the Permissions page.

As always, check the blog and follow BHL on Facebook and Twitter (@BioDivLibrary) for updates on new content!

Patrick Randall
Community Manager
Expanding Access to Biodiversity Literature

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Unravelling the secrets of Australian native bees

By Dr. Anne Dollin
Co-founder of the Australian Native Bee Research Centre 
North Richmond NSW Australia

Australia has over 1,600 species of native bees. As a young university student in 1979, I was keen to learn all I could about these diverse species. However, I soon found that the original descriptions of many of these bees were in obscure books and journals dating from the late 1700s to the early 1900s, only available in specialised research libraries. Unravelling the secrets of Australian native bees would prove to be a challenge!

Anne Dollin studying the Austroplebeia bees in the Australian National Insect Collection, Canberra. (Photo by Les Dollin)
When naturalist Joseph Banks arrived in Australia in 1770 with the first British expedition, he found an astounding new world of undescribed species. Amongst the hundreds of specimens that he collected were a blue-banded bee, a resin bee, a carpenter bee and a wasp-mimic bee. Five years later the Danish entomologist Johan Christian Fabricius included descriptions of these four bees in his 1775 tome, Systema entomologiae. These were the first recorded descriptions of Australian native bees. You might say that Systema entomologiae was the first field guide to Australian native bees!

To study Systema entomologiae back in my early career, I had to visit the research library of the Australian Museum. This is rare book so it was gingerly placed on a cushion, and I had to handle it with gloves. Photocopying was forbidden, and I had to laboriously copy down the Latin descriptions using pencil and paper. Now, thanks to BHL, I can view Systema entomologiae on my home computer and have downloaded a copy for detailed study (REF 1).

The title page of Johan Fabricius' 1775 Systema entomologiae, the book containing the earliest published descriptions of Australian native bees. Digitized by NCSU Libraries.

As the young Australian nation developed, most of the research on our bees was done by scientists from overseas. In 1854, British entomologist, Frederick Smith, described our first stingless bee species, Tetragonula carbonaria (originally in the genus Trigona), from a specimen deposited in the British Museum. He simply recorded the collection locality of this bee as 'Australia'. Smith's description can be studied in BHL (REF 2).

Then in 1863, Smith examined a nest that had been brought all the way to England and exhibited to the Entomological Society of London. His description, in the Transactions of that society, now archived by BHL, was possibly the first published account of the nest of this species (REF 3).

In 1898, German entomologist, Heinrich Friese, published descriptions of four more stingless bee species from Australia and New Guinea, including the first Austroplebeia species. His paper in Természetrajzi Füzetek is now available from BHL (REF 4).

The title page of the 1898 issue of Természetrajzi Füzetek, containing descriptions of four new stingless bee species from Australia and New Guinea, in a paper by Heinrich Friese. Digitized by Smithsonian Libraries.

In the early 1900s, the American zoologist, Theodore Cockerell, described hundreds of Australian native bee species, including six species of stingless bees. Then finally in the 1930s, Tarlton Rayment, an Australian naturalist, wrote numerous illustrated articles about our native bees. Many of the works of Cockerell and Rayment have also been archived by BHL.

Australia's Tetragonula and Austroplebeia stingless bee species quickly became my special interest. These charming bees were being kept in logs and hives across the continent, they make delicious tangy honey called Sugarbag, and their value as crop pollinators was being explored. Despite their popularity and economic value, their taxonomy was in urgent need of revision. The number of Australian species was unknown and the existing species descriptions were grossly inadequate. My husband, Les, and I decided to try to identify and describe all of the Australian stingless bee species. Little did we realise that it would take us 36 years to achieve this goal!

Les Dollin examining a nest of Austroplebeia stingless bees in far north Queensland in 1997. (Photo by Anne Dollin)

Fifteen species names had already been given to our Australian stingless bees by early entomologists. To assess the validity of these names, first we needed to study the type descriptions of these species. Unfortunately, we started this project long before the existence of BHL, and we were obliged to search for these old papers in museum and university libraries – a daunting task. Then began the field work! Les and I set out on expeditions to the most remote parts of Australia and searched for stingless bees in each of the known localities where they had been described.

With the help of Japanese expert, Professor Shôichi Sakagami, we published our revision of the Tetragonula stingless bees in 1997 [REF 5]. The Austroplebeia, however, proved to be far harder to classify. At last, with the help of collaborative studies with the University of Western Sydney, the species groups became clearer. We then performed a three year, in-depth analysis of our entire Austroplebeia collection and published our Austroplebeia stingless bee revision with Dr Claus Rasmussen in 2015 [REF 6].  For a colourful look at our findings, including stories from our outback expeditions, read 'Meet the Austroplebeia species', article 25 in Aussie Bee Online on Aussie Bee website [REF 7].

The queen and workers of the colourful Austroplebeia cincta stingless bee species found in northern Australia. The original description of this species, written in Latin, can be found in Friese's 1898 paper in Természetrajzi Füzetek, archived in BHL. (Photo by Anne Dollin)

BHL provided valuable assistance with our recent Austroplebeia revision. One of the most challenging tasks was matching the original type specimen of each described species with our recently collected materials. To do this, it was important to find out where each type specimen had been collected. For some type specimens the collection localities were quite vague. For instance, the recorded locality for the A. australis type was 'Central Australia', a huge area covering hundreds of square kilometres. So we searched exhaustively for clues in other old texts from the time, such as the 1891 account by Reverend Louis Schulze on Aboriginals of the Finke River area of Central Australia, archived by BHL [REF 8].  We concluded that the A. australis type was probably collected near the Central Australian Aboriginal mission of Hermannsburg.

The anatomical terminology required for the revision paper was another substantial challenge. I had to compile my own specialised glossary of stingless bee anatomical terms so that I could understand the technical descriptions of the early papers and correctly prepare revised descriptions. BHL provided valuable reference material for this task, including William Kirby's 1826 glossary of anatomical terms [REF 9].

A page from William Kirby's 1826 glossary, listing some of the many technical terms for colours used in species descriptions. Digitized by NCSU Libraries.

I am an independent self-funded researcher located over 80km from the nearest major research library that holds archival material of this type. Being able to browse, study and download these publications on my own computer in my research centre whenever I needed them, rather than travel long distances to a library, greatly facilitated my work.

In addition to our taxonomic work, Les and I have also created Aussie Bee, Australia's largest website on native bees. The photographs, videos and articles presented on Aussie Bee showcase Australian native bees and help raise public awareness of these vital pollinators. The stories of early exploration and discovery connected with our Australian native bees help engage and maintain public interest in these species. We thank BHL for the fascinating material that we have found in their archives so far and look forward to exploring BHL's archives further as we continue to unravel the secrets of Australian native bees.



This post may contain the personal opinions of BHL users or affiliated staff and does not necessarily represent the official Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) position on these matters.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

BHL at the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections

The 31st Annual Meeting of the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections (SPNHC) ( was jointly hosted by the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin and the Botanischer Garten und Botanisches Museum in Berlin, 20-25 June 2016. The SPNHC conference brings together representatives from natural history museums, universities, and biodiversity data aggregators and serves as a wonderful opportunity for BHL to connect with formal partner institutions, collaborators such as GBIF, as well as many BHL users.

As part of the Technical Sessions on 23 June, Dr. Jiří Frank (Scientific Secretary, Národní Muzeum, Prague) and Carolyn Sheffield (BHL Program Manager) co-presented on BHL and its intersections with natural history collections and other biodiversity data aggregators. The talk, entitled Harnessing biodiversity literature for Natural History collections curation and research--a digital library perspective, attracted approximately 100 attendees, most of whom indicated they were familiar with BHL and more than half indicated they use it on a regular basis. The presentation was framed by the perspective of Národní Muzeum, BHL’s long time collaborator and newest Affiliate partner, and included an overview of the BHL consortium structure and some of the services integrated into the BHL website. Highlights included examples of how BHL data intersects with other resources such as EOL, DPLA, and GBIF. The talk concluded with a brief summary of goals for future collaborations, notably via recent initiatives amongst Národní Muzeum  and other European partners.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Information about Upcoming Changes to BHL API

The BHL API will be updated on 25 July 2016 to support changes to the BHL site. These changes will accommodate identifying additional Contributors for Items and Parts of items.

First are changes to the API that may affect your existing processes.

The Contributor and ContributorID elements in the result sets of API methods that return "Part" information will move. ContributorID will be included as a PartIdentifier in the Identifiers list. Contributor will be included in a new Contributors list.

These changes are being made to accommodate more than one contributor per part.  For example, if one institution researches/compiles the data and a second institution facilitates the inclusion of that data in BHL, both institutions may be listed as a contributor.  Initially, no more than two contributors per part will be allowed, but by adopting these changes to API responses we allow for additional (unlimited, actually) contributors in the future.

Here is an example that shows how the API responses are changing.  The examples shown here are an output of the GetPartMetadata method, and have been abbreviated for clarity.

Original API Results – highlighted elements are being moved:

      Notes on certain species of Tetragnatha 
      (Araneae, Argiopidae) in Central America 
      and Mexico
    <Authors> [...] </Authors>
    <Subjects />
    <Pages> [...] </Pages>
    <RelatedParts />

Updated API Results – Highlighted elements are the new locations of the moved data:

        Notes on certain species of Tetragnatha
        (Araneae, Argiopidae) in Central America
        and Mexico
    <Authors> [...] </Authors>
    <Subjects />
    <Pages> [...] </Pages>
    <RelatedParts />

Additionally, there will be two additions to the Item metadata.

The new data elements are: RightsHolder and ScanningInstitution. 
These will optionally be displayed if there is data for the relevant organizations. 

    <Source>Internet Archive</Source>
    <Volume>v.51-60 1898-99</Volume>
      UMass Amherst Libraries (
      Biodiversity Heritage Library
      Smithsonian Institution Libraries
    <Sponsor>UMass Amherst Libraries</Sponsor>
Detailed documentation for the BHL APIs is available at  It will be updated to reflect these changes after they are moved into production on 25 July 2016.

Go to to get an API key for BHL.

Information about other BHL developer tools can be found at

If you have questions, please feel free to submit feedback via this form.