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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

2017 BHL Open Day at the Singapore Botanic Gardens


On 15 March 2017, the Singapore Botanic Gardens hosted a Biodiversity Heritage Library Open Day in conjunction with the BHL Annual Meeting, the latter of which occurred March 14-17 and was hosted by the National Library, Singapore.

BHL Open Day invited local guests to learn more about BHL and its impact on global science. The program featured speakers from the BHL community and biodiversity-related disciplines. Speakers included: Dr. Nigel Taylor (Group Director, Singapore Botanic Gardens, National Parks Board); Martin R. Kalfatovic (BHL Program Director and Assistant Director, Digital Programs and Initiatives Division, Smithsonian Libraries); Wai Yin Pryke (Director, National Library Singapore); Professor Peter K.L. Ng (Head, Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum); Grace Costantino (BHL Outreach and Communication Manager); and Dr. Elycia Wallis (Manager of Online Collections, Museums Victoria).

Wai Yin Pryke welcoming guests to the BHL Open Day 2017. Photo by Grace Costantino.

Following welcome speeches by Wai Yin Pryke and Dr. Nancy E. Gwinn (Director, Smithsonian Libraries and Immediate Past-Chair of the BHL Members' Council), Dr. Nigel Taylor provided context to the event's venue by presenting a history of the Singapore Botanic Gardens, which was founded in 1859. Dr. Taylor incorporated archival photographs into his presentation to document the development of the gardens and demonstrate how it played an important role in early agricultural development in Singapore.

Following Dr. Taylor, Martin Kalfatovic provided an overview of BHL, focusing on global initiatives, program growth, and collection usage. Wai Yin Pryke followed with a presentation on the BHL Singapore story to date. BHL Singapore, founded by the National Library Board, Singapore, joined the BHL community in 2014, and has since been working to digitize the collections of the National Library and mobilize participation from other Singapore institutions.

Dr. Peter Ng presenting at BHL Open Day 2017. Photo by Grace Costantino.

Dr. Peter Ng led the afternoon session with a presentation about the history of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, which hosted the BHL Partners meeting on 16 March, and a "taxonomist's wish-list" for future BHL development. An expert on aquatic biodiversity, Dr. Ng's personal research focuses on the systematics and diversity of decapod crustaceans. Among his wish-list items for BHL were the expansion of curated collections; allowing users to correct metadata in BHL, such as date information; the simplification of high resolution image downloads; and collaboration with taxonomists to create checklists and bibliographies.

The final portion of the afternoon session featured presentations by Grace Costantino on BHL outreach initiatives and Dr. Elycia Wallis on the ways that biodiversity literature in BHL provides a window into the strange, exotic, and marvelous biodiversity of Australia.

Tour of the Singapore Botanic Gardens Library by Dr. Nigel Taylor. Photo by Martin R. Kalfatovic.

Following the BHL Open Day presentations, attendees were treated to a tour of the Singapore Botanic Gardens and Library and an evening reception. Highlights of the tour included the giant tiger orchid, which is likely the world's oldest and largest specimen orchid, several heritage trees, including the Tembusu tree featured on the Singapore $5 note, and entertaining displays from local clouded monitor lizards (Varanus nebulous) digging in the leaf litter for food.

The giant tiger orchid at the Singapore Botanic Gardens. Photo by Martin R. Kalfatovic.

The Tembusu tree at the Singapore Botanic Gardens, featured on the $5 Singapore note. Photo by Martin R. Kalfatovic.

Clouded monitor lizards (Varanus nebulous) digging for food. Photo by Martin R. Kalfatovic.

BHL staff were thrilled to have an additional opportunity to share BHL with the local Singapore community through a public talk at the National Library, Singapore on 17 March. Martin Kalfatovic and Grace Costantino provided an overview of BHL and shared stories about the impact BHL has on various research disciplines to nearly 50 attendees. See the event slides here.

Attendees of the BHL Public Talk at the National Library, Singapore on 17 March, 2017. Photo by National Library, Singapore.

Martin Kalfatovic presenting at the BHL Public Talk at the National Library, Singapore on 17 March, 2017. Photo by National Library, Singapore. 

Grace Costantino presenting at the BHL Public Talk at the National Library, Singapore on 17 March, 2017. Photo by National Library, Singapore.

We thank the National Library, Singapore and the Singapore Botanic Gardens for organizing and hosting these public events during our Annual Meeting in Singapore! Both events provided us with an excellent opportunity to share the story of BHL's impact on global science, identify future development priorities based on input from the audience and guest speakers, and network with the local Singapore community.

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