Wednesday, January 31, 2018

BHL Website Unavailable 31 January 2018 <-- Issue Now Resolved!

UPDATE: The BHL website is back online. Thank you for your patience!

The BHL website is currently unavailable due to technical difficulties. We're working to resolve the problem as soon as possible. We apologize for the inconvenience and thank you for your patience.

While the BHL website is down, you can access our collection via Internet Archive

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

44 New In-Copyright Titles Coming to BHL!

During the final quarter of 2017 (October to December), BHL received permission for 44 new in-copyright titles, many as part of the Expanding Access to Biodiversity Literature project. 

BHL licenses content under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 license.

Below are the titles added in the fourth quarter, in the order permission was secured. As of the writing of this post, only one has been uploaded; the link is provided. Look for the rest as they're added to the collection; you can check the recent additions, or see all the permission titles available in BHL on the permissions page.

South African National Biodiversity Institute

  • Fauna and Flora of Transvaal
  • Kirstenbosch Gardening Series
  • Onze Tuinen

Nebraska Ornithologists' Union
  • Nebraska Bird Review 
Delaware Center for the Inland Bays
  • Annual Reports 
  • CCMP Addendum 
  • Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP) 
  • Inland Bays Journal 
  • Scientific Publications & Reports 
  • State of the Bays 
  • Three Year Strategic Plan (April 2015-April 2018) 

Texas Academy of Science
Native Plant Society of Oregon
  • Bulletin of the Native Plant Society of Oregon 
  • Kalmiopsis 
  • NPSO Occasional Papers 
American Iris Society
  • Irises (Bulletin of the American Iris Society) 

Museo de Historia Natural de Valparaíso
  • Anales del Museo de Historia Natural de Valparaíso 
KU Biodiversity Institute
  • A Checklist of Linneana, 1735-1835 : in the University of Kansas Libraries 
Missouri Native Plant Society
  • Missouriensis 
Southern California Association of Marine Invertebrate Taxonomists
  • SCAMIT Newsletter 

[IOU Congress XVII] Deutsche Ornithologen-Gesellschaft
  • Acta XVII Congressus Internationalis Ornithologici 
North American Mycological Association
  • The Mycophile 
  • McIlvainea 

Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland
  • BSBI Conference Reports 
Virginia Academy of Science
  • Virginia Journal of Science, including Proceedings and Supplements 
Societa dei Naturalisti in Napoli
  • Bollettino della Societa dei Naturalisti in Napoli 
[IOU Congress XVIII] A.N. Severtzov Institute of Ecology & Evolution
  • Acta XVIII Congressus Internationalis Ornithologici, Moscow. 
The Northern Territory Field Naturalists' Club
  • The Northern Territory Naturalist 

The Museum & Art Gallery of the Northern Territory
  • The Beagle, Records of the Museums and Art Galleries of the Northern Territory 
  • The Beagle, Records of the Museums and Art Galleries of the Northern Territory, Supplementary Series 
  • Technical Reports of the Museums and Art Galleries of the Northern Territory 
  • Northern Territory Museum of Arts and Sciences Monograph Series 
Nova Scotia Institute of Science
  • Proceedings of the Nova Scotia Institute of Science 

Michigan Botanical Club
  • The Michigan Botanist 
  • The Great Lakes Botanist 
Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History
  • Field Notebooks: Leo Hickey (1940-2013) 
  • Field Notebooks: Karl Waage (1915-1999) 
Entomological Society of Latvia
  • Biodiversity, biogeography and nature conservation in Wallacea and New Guinea 
Virginia Natural History Society
  • Banisteria 
Southern Appalachian Botanical Society
  • Castanea 
  • Castanea: Occasional Papers 

The Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University
  • Contributions of the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University 
BHL thanks the many individuals and organizations who have so generously allowed their publications to be digitized and made available to the world under open access. If there's a book or journal you would like to see in BHL, please let us know!

And as always, don't forget to follow BHL on Facebook, Twitter (@BioDivLibrary), Instagram, Flickr, and Pinterest.

By Elizabeth Meyer 
Library Project Assistant 
Ernst Mayr Library of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University

Thursday, January 25, 2018

"If it Lives, We Want It." Exploring the Acclimatisation Society of Victoria's Role in Australia’s Ecological History

The Acclimatisation Society of Victoria played a fascinating, yet devastating, role in Australia’s ecological history. Founded in 1861 and existing as an independent entity until 1872, the Society recorded its objectives and activities in annual reports. These reports have been digitized by Museums Victoria and are now available on the Biodiversity Heritage Library.

The First Annual report of the Acclimatisation Society of Victoria, 1862. Contributed to BHL by Museums Victoria.

The Acclimatisation Society was established in Victoria’s capital of Melbourne at a time when the city was experiencing great economic and population growth. Gold had been discovered in the colony in 1851 and over the next 10 years the population grew from 76,000 to 540,000. The wealthy and educated flocked to Melbourne, and the 1850s saw the establishment of The University of Melbourne, the National Museum of Victoria, the State Library of Victoria and many learned societies.

The Acclimatisation Society was governed by the colony’s most eminent scientists who believed that Australia’s plants and animals were greatly inferior to those in Europe. The Society’s first president Edward Wilson argued that animals indigenous to Australia were practically useless, providing only 'a little sport and an occasional meal' (Gillbank, 1984).

At the Society’s inaugural annual meeting, members were roused with talk of "wharves laden with the fleeces of the alpaca…, rivers teeming with all sorts of fish, forests abounding with every variety of game, and our tables groaning with all the delicacies which can be procured in the markets of London and Paris" (Acclimatisation Society of Victoria, 1862b).

There was great nostalgia amongst the colony for the "delightful reminders of [their] early home". Frederick McCoy, foundation Professor of Natural Science at The University of Melbourne and first director of the National Museum, proclaimed that “English thrushes, blackbirds, larks, starlings, and canaries” when “liberated” would enliven the "savage silence, or worse" with their "varied, touching, joyous, strains of Heaven-taught melody" (McCoy 1862).

Birds liberated, from The First Annual report of the Acclimatisation Society of Victoria, 1862. Contributed to BHL by Museums Victoria.

The Society’s objectives were twofold: to introduce to Victoria and acclimatise "all innoxious animals, birds, fishes, insects, and vegetables, whether useful or ornamental" and to spread indigenous plants and animals from the colony to other parts of the world. President Wilson’s motto was "if it lives, we want it" (Tout-Smith, 2018).

Theirs was an enormous undertaking: "to establish a system of co-operation and exchange, with persons residing at different points in the far quarters of the globe, and to arrange for the reception, multiplication, and distribution of birds and other animals, which must first of all bear a tedious sea voyage, and then receive the vigilant attention necessary to preserve them in a new climate" (Acclimatisation Society of Victoria, 1862a).

The Annual Reports outline some significant successes (not all of which were their own doing): "the hare and rabbit have been introduced, and the latter so thoroughly acclimatised, that it swarms in hundreds in some localities" (Acclimatisation Society of Victoria, 1862c).

The Reports not only provide a timeline of species released in Victoria; they also list the species sent elsewhere: echidnas to London, wombats to Paris, kangaroos to Mauritius and possums to New Zealand (an acclimatisation “success” that New Zealand may never forgive).

Quadrupeds and birds sent away, from The First Annual report of the Acclimatisation Society of Victoria, 1862. Contributed to BHL by Museums Victoria.

However, most of their expensive acclimatisation experiments failed. In the early 1870s, The Acclimatisation Society began to focus on the importation of exotic animals for display purposes and in 1872 it was renamed The Zoological and Acclimatisation Society of Victoria. Their Annual Reports (also available on BHL) provide an equally fascinating history of what would become The Melbourne Zoo, but that’s another story.

Crustacea, from The First Annual report of the Acclimatisation Society of Victoria, 1862. Contributed to BHL by Museums Victoria.

Today Australia’s introduced species cause immense environmental and economic damage and have caused more extinctions of native Australian animals than any other factor. The Acclimatisation Society of Victoria, however, was certainly not to blame for all this devastation. While their lists of “liberated” animals include many of our most destructive invasives, they are generally only credited with the introduction of starlings, sparrows, sambar deer and European carp (Tout-Smith, 2003).

The legacy they expected to leave behind is very different from the one presented here, as evidenced by McCoy’s statement in his anniversary address delivered at the Society’s first annual meeting:

…the good we do will live after us, and the work of our hands will thrive and prosper to our hearts’ content, and so become a lasting benefit to the millions of men who will in the fullness of time inhabit this land. (McCoy, 1862)

By: Nicole Kearney
Project Coordinator, Biodiversity Heritage Library Australia
Museums Victoria


Tuesday, January 23, 2018

BHL Australia - Now a Truly National Project

BHL Australia started 2017 with a dream – to digitize biodiversity literature from EVERY state and territory in Australia (for those readers not in Australia, we have six states and two territories).

The Australian branch of the Biodiversity Heritage Library is led by Museums Victoria, in collaboration with Australia’s national biodiversity data aggregator, the Atlas of Living Australia. The Australian project started in 2011 with just one library contributing.

The first scientific description of a kangaroo, from George Shaw’s The Naturalist's Miscellany, or Coloured figures of natural objects, volume 1, 1790, contributed to BHL by Museums Victoria.

In May 2016, BHL Australia signed on as a full BHL member. By this time, we had grown to five contributing organizations from four states: Museums Victoria and the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria (in Victoria), the Queensland Museum (in Queensland), the South Australian Museum (in South Australia) and the Australian Museum (in New South Wales).

By the end of 2016, the number of Australian contributors had doubled. We had welcomed five new BHL contributors, including the Western Australian Museum and the Royal Society of Western Australia (from Australia’s largest state of Western Australia) and Geoscience Australia (from the Australian Capital Territory).

Left: Records of the Western Australian Museum and Art Gallery, volume 1 number 1, 1910, contributed to BHL by the Western Australian Museum. Right: Page from Richard Gurth Dodson's 1971 Antarctic geological field notebook contributed to BHL by Geoscience Australia.

In 2017 we purchased a new scanner and uploaded a record number of pages onto BHL: 48,863 (compared to 27,647 in 2016). We continued to attract new contributors and, by the middle of the year, there were 15 Australian organizations contributing to BHL. However, the Northern Territory and Tasmania were still not represented.

In October 2017, BHL Australia’s Manger Ely Wallis and Coordinator Nicole Kearney spoke about BHL at the combined annual meeting of the Council of Heads of Australian Faunal Collections (CHAFC) and the Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria (CHAH).

We are thrilled to announce that, as a direct result of this meeting, we have three new Australian contributors: the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, the Northern Territory Field Naturalists’ Club and Tasmania’s Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery.

Left: Records of the Queen Victoria Museum Launceston, volume 1, 1942, contributed to BHL by the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery. Right: Northern Territory Naturalist, volume 1 number 1, 1978, contributed to BHL by the Northern Territory Field Naturalists’ Club.

As we’d dreamed, BHL Australia will be spending 2018 digitizing the biodiversity heritage of every state and territory in Australia – from the library collections of 20 Australian organizations (thus far).

To keep up with BHL Australia’s contributions and activities, follow us on twitter at @bhl_au.

The BHL Australia operation would not be possible without the work of our wonderful volunteers: Bob Griffith, Chris Healey, Grace Blake, Heidi Griffith, John Hurley, Sue Halliwell, Tiziana Tizian and Virak Seng. In November 2017, we welcomed seven new volunteers to our BHL Au family: David Tink, Ian Farnsworth, Liz Murray, Ruth Dickinson, Sharon Lewin, Susan Roderick and Wenping Zhang. In December 2017 we uploaded 7,745 pages onto BHL: this was our highest upload month ever. 7,745 cheers for our volunteers!

Post By:
Nicole Kearney
Project Coordinator, BHL Australia
Museums Victoria

Thursday, January 18, 2018

New Medical Botany Titles in BHL Thanks to The New York Academy of Medicine

The New York Academy of Medicine Library has contributed nine digitized titles (11 volumes) on medical botany to the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) as part of the Expanding Access to Biodiversity Literature project. It is very exciting to share some of the Academy Library’s botanical resources with the wider public.

The Academy is home to one of the most significant historical libraries in medicine and public health in the world, safeguarding the heritage of medicine to inform the future of health. The Library’s collections contain many of the formative texts of medicine and allied fields from the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, as well as more recent titles. It is equally renowned for its extensive journal collection comprising medical serials from around the world, and for significant holdings in manuscripts, archives and ephemera, all of which are of great historical interest.

The New York Academy of Medicine Library’s Drs. Barry and Bobbi Coller Rare Book Reading Room.

While the Library’s collections include a large number of printed botanical books dating back to the beginning of the sixteenth century, for this project we were interested in identifying resources that could be sent to the Internet Archive for external digitization, which meant that we concentrated on our holdings from the second half of the 19th century forward through 1922.

After generating lists from our online catalog, we checked to see if any of these resources had already been digitized by the BHL, Internet Archive, or HathiTrust. For this process, we developed a set of simple guidelines:

  • Resources not available via BHL, Internet Archive or HathiTrust remained on the list. 
  • Resources already available via the BHL were eliminated from the list. 
  • Resources already available via the Internet Archive were eliminated from the list because BHL harvests content from the Internet Archive, so there would be no need for us to digitize that content. 
  • Resources already available via HathiTrust could still potentially be digitized for access via the BHL based on whether our copy provides additional information for the public once digitized. For example, the Indian Medicinal Plants (Kīrtikara & Basu, 1918) has been partially digitized by HathiTrust, but the volume with the images was missing. As such, it became important for us to digitize so that it would be fully available. 

We went through multiple lists and rounds of de-duplication to narrow down our potential submission. Once we finalized the list, Scott Devine, Head of Preservation, conducted a conservation assessment to determine which resources could be sent out for digitization and which were so fragile that they could only be digitized in house. We separated these into two lists. The first list was sent to the Internet Archive for digitization and is our contribution to BHL. The second list will be a project for our new digital lab, and we hope to make them available at a future date.

Indian medicinal plants (Kīrtikara & Basu, 1918) stood out as a resource to digitize and share widely. It documents the medicinal plants found in India. The authors describe a need to provide a text that reproduces illustrations of Indian medicinal plants from other works since there were few prior to this publication. Dr. W. Roxburgh’s text, reprinted in 1874, was used as a reference throughout.

Kīrtikara, Kānhobā Raṇachoḍadāsa and Baman Das Basu. Indian medicinal plants. 2nd Ed. (1918). Plate #256, showing Leea sambucina. Digitized by The New York Academy of Medicine.

Although Indian medicinal plants did not focus on the use of plants in the development of drugs, this theme can be seen throughout the resources submitted to the BHL. Each author grapples with the role of plants in the creation and production of drugs.

In A course in botany and pharmacognosy (1902), Henry Kraemer, Professor of Botany and Pharmacognosy, defines pharmacognosy as the "study of drugs of vegetable origins." Kraemer devotes the first part of his text to plant morphology and the second part to pharmacognosy. In addition, he provides illustrations to aid in the study of both parts so that students can connect the descriptions throughout the text to the visual representations.

Kraemer, Henry. A course in botany and pharmacognosy. 1902. Plate #1, showing organized cell-contents. Digitized by The New York Academy of Medicine.

Youngken's Pharmaceutical botany, 2nd edition (1918) was expanded to take advantage of the growing area of botany, including a section on drug-yielding plants. The text focuses on the morphology and taxonomy of plants used in drug development.

Youngken, Heber W. (Heber Wilkinson). Pharmaceutical botany. 1918. Fig 57, showing leaf bases, species and compound leaves. Digitized by The New York Academy of Medicine.

In Pharmacal plants and their culture (1912), Schneider argues that the majority of imported plants used in medicine could already be available in the United States. He focuses on California and outlines what can be cultivated and grown in the state. Schneider provides a list of uses and common names.

Gattinger's and Allison's report (1894) is an observational inventory of Tennessee's plants and their descriptions based on a similar project conducted by North Carolina. Published by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, the report emphasizes the importance of documenting and understanding the native plants of Tennessee and how they can help increase usage and revenue.

Overall, readers of this collection can begin to understand the role of plants in the creation, development and economic viability of drugs. Many of the resources provide some form of inventory, index or list that documents the plants and associated drugs.

All titles submitted by the Academy Library to BHL:

The BHL Expanding Access project is funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

Robin Naughton, PhD 
Head of Digital, The New York Academy of Medicine 
Arlene Shaner, MA, MLS 
Historical Collections Librarian, The New York Academy of Medicine

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Capstone event for BHL NDSR program

On January 4, 2018, in the midst of a memorable storm in the Northeastern US, approximately 30 intrepid travelers met to celebrate the successful completion of the BHL National Digital Stewardship Residencies developed for the IMLS, Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian grant submission: Foundations to Actions: Extending Innovations in Digital Libraries in Partnership with NDSR Learners.  The program plan included hiring five geographically-distributed residents, all graduates of LIS or related master's programs, to work on collaborative projects to improve tools, curation, and content stewardship for BHL. This work supported BHL development plans for the next generation portal for the world’s largest open access digital library for biodiversity literature.
The Capstone event was beautifully hosted by the Smithsonian Libraries at the Natural History Museum in the room where the first DC planning meeting for BHL occurred. Martin Kalfatovic (BHL Program Director and Associate Director, Digital Program and Initiatives for the Smithsonian Libraries) and Dr. Nancy Gwinn (Director of the Smithsonian Libraries) welcomed the group.  Robin Dale (Deputy Director for Library Services at IMLS) described the NDSR program within the context of the IMLS goals for a national digital platform, mentoring digital library leaders and developing communities of practice.  Dr. Scott Miller (Deputy Undersecretary for Collections and Interdisciplinary Support at the Smithsonian Institution) congratulated BHL on its accomplishments in making biodiversity literature accessible but also suggested further work on linking content, mobile access and establishing standards.

Constance Rinaldo (Librarian of the Ernst Mayr Library of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University and Chair of the BHL Members' Council) gave an overview of the grant and process emphasizing the importance of ensuring the development of a strong cohort with leadership capacity among the geographically dispersed residents. Leora Siegel (Senior Director, Lenhardt Library of the Chicago Botanic Garden and a BHL NDSR Mentor) reflected on the past year and how rewarding it was to be a mentor to a recent graduate, wrestle with how to push the project forward, and connect with colleagues mentoring related projects with residents across the United States.  Mentors wished for more time, more opportunities to meet face to face with all participants and more professional meeting opportunities.

Katie Mika (BHL NDSR Resident at the Ernst Mayr Library) reflected on being a resident, struggling with the contrary thrusts of independence yet adherence to a partially defined project in a tight time frame.  Residents wished for more time, more structure and an in-depth technical introduction to BHL, yet all were successful in their work and learned more than they expected.

Trevor Owens (Head of Digital Content Management in Library Services at the Library of Congress) wrapped up the event with a keynote that focused on the push towards a National Digital Platform for digital data and his thoughts on digital preservation.

Although the final grant report looms large for the mentors, the Capstone event was an engaging send-off for the residents and we all look forward to following their future accomplishments.
Scott Miller presenting the
opening keynote
Katie Mika presenting the
BHL NDSR Resident Reflection
Trevor Owens presenting the
closing keynote

For specific information about the work of the residents, see their blog
and related BHL blog posts.

BHL NDSR Residents and Mentors
Alicia Esquivel, Resident at Chicago Botanic Garden, focused on Content Analysis.
Leora Siegel, Senior Director, Lenhardt Library

Marissa Kings, Resident at Natural History Museum, Los Angeles County, focused on Digital Library Best Practices.
Richard Hulser, Chief Librarian

Pamela McClanahan, Resident at Smithsonian Libraries, focused on User Needs and Usability.
Carolyn Sheffield, BHL Program Manager

Katie Mika, Resident at Ernst Mayr Library, Harvard University Museum of Comparative Zoology, focused on Crowdsourced Data Corrections and Enhancements.
Constance Rinaldo, Librarian, Ernst Mayr Library
and Program Director, BHL-NDSR Program
Joseph DeVeer, Project Manager and Museum Liaison, Ernst Mayr Library

Ariadne Rehbein, Resident at Missouri Botanical Garden, focused on Enhancing Image Discovery.
Doug Holland, Library Director, Peter H. Raven Library
Trish Rose-Sandler, Project Manager, Center for Biodiversity Informatics

Thank you to the speakers, external and internal to the grant project, for providing us with encouragement, support and reflections that we can take forward in our day to day work.  I want to especially thank Carolyn Sheffield (BHL Program Manager and Mentor to the Smithsonian Libraries resident) for managing the logistics of the Capstone event and ensuring its excellence.

By Constance Rinaldo
Librarian of the Ernst Mayr Library of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University
Chair, BHL Members' Council

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Examining the History of Paleoanthropology Using BHL

In the middle of the nineteenth century, the scientific community was engrossed in discussions about evolution and the origin of species. The publication of Darwin's On the Origin of Species in 1859 fueled extensive scientific debate and prompted further questions regarding human evolution. A key figure in these debates was Thomas Henry Huxley, an English biologist and comparative anatomist.

Frontispiece. Huxley, Thomas Henry. Evidence as to Man's Place in Nature. 1863. Digitized by Cambridge University Library as part of Charles Darwin's Library.

A close friend of Charles Darwin and a staunch public supporter of the theory of natural selection, Huxley used his expertise in embryology, paleontology and comparative anatomy to demonstrate an evolutionary relationship between humans and apes. In a series of public lectures between 1860-62, he presented research on anatomical similarities between humans and apes and discussed hominin fossil discoveries, including a skullcap from the first recognized Neanderthal Man which was unearthed in Germany in 1856.

These oral discourses were collected into a single volume and published in 1863 as Evidence as to Man's Place in Nature.

Huxley, Thomas Henry. Evidence as to Man's Place in Nature. 1863. Digitized by Cambridge University Library as part of Charles Darwin's Library. Page 139.

Paige Madison, a PhD candidate studying the history of paleoanthropology at Arizona State University, identifies this publication as a vital reference for her doctoral research.

Paige Madison, PhD candidate at Arizona State University. Photo Credit: Alex Reynes.

"This was one of the pioneering works in the history of paleoanthropology," explains Madison. "Huxley’s argumentative strategy is wonderful. At a time when it was hard to get away from preconceived notions about human evolution, Huxley asks his readers to take a step back and imagine they were visitors from Saturn, 'happily free from all personal interest.' He lays out the facts concerning humans' similarities to other apes and then asks the impartial scientific Saturnians, 'Is Man so different from any of these Apes?'"

For her dissertation, Madison is examining a series of case studies on the history of paleoanthropology spanning well over a century. This research requires examination of numerous historic publications, such as Huxley's Man's Place in Nature. Thanks to the Biodiversity Heritage Library, she has easy access to the necessary references.

"BHL has been central to my research," asserts Madison. "It allows me to quickly access a wealth of material online, so I can spend my time researching rather than running back and forth to the University library."

After first being introduced to BHL by fellow graduate students five years ago, Madison now uses the library almost weekly to access the research of key scientists in her field. By downloading entire PDFs of relevant publications or selecting specific pages using BHL's custom PDF generator, she is able to guarantee easy offline access to important references. She also uses the library to gather images, which she finds useful both for her research and when creating presentations.

"The images I can download from BHL are high quality," says Madison. "I know exactly where they came from and how they were used to illuminate a particular aspect of a scientist’s overall argument."

While she finds BHL's collections invaluable, Madison notes that the consolidation of duplicate author names would greatly improve the user experience. As a request voiced by many users, name authority control is indeed high on BHL's list of development priorities.

For Madison, exploring the history of hominin fossils and our understanding of their place in the evolution of Homo sapiens is a passion that is greatly facilitated by the Biodiversity Heritage Library. We are proud to know that BHL's open access collection is helping to illuminate the history of science to accelerate research today and empower future discoveries.

You can follow Paige Madison's research on Twitter at @FossilHistory.

By Grace Costantino 
Outreach and Communication Manager 
Biodiversity Heritage Library 


Hauserman, Samantha. 2013. "Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-1895)." The Embryo Project Encyclopedia, November 26. Accessed December 5, 2017.


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.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Digitized Field Notes Yield Rapid Reference Response!

The Harvard Botany Libraries have been fortunate to benefit from several field notes digitization projects in recent years. Materials have been selected based on condition, demand, and/or the theme of the funded project. The current CLIR-funded BHL Field Notes Project has enabled us to nearly complete the capture of field notes and plant lists associated with the herbaria collections. The most interesting and immediate benefit of the project is our ability to point users to the files that are available both in the Biodiversity Heritage Library and HOLLIS, Harvard’s online catalog.

Recent reference questions that have arrived in my inbox that would have once required searching finding aids or files, and having researchers come to review materials, can now be answered by sending links. A former curatorial staff member wrote in the fall to say that he was on his way to Bermuda to collect specimens. He asked if I could send him copies of the field notes compiled by Harvard mycologist William G. Farlow during his trips there in 1881 and 1900. The notes were already available in the BHL Field Notes collection so I dashed off an email with those links and received a big “thank you” only minutes later!
Bermuda plants, approximately 1881-1900. v.2 (1881) Digitized by Harvard University Botany Libraries.

Another recent request came from a botanist stationed at the Horticulture Center, South China Botanical Garden, in Guangzhou, China. He was interested in anything in the archives related to Chun WoonYoung [Chen Huanyong] who collaborated with Arnold Arboretum botanists in the 1920s. While most of those materials reside in the archives at the Arnold Arboretum, I was fairly sure that we had his collecting records. Digital Projects Librarian Diane Rielinger supplied the BHL link so I forwarded it to the botanist in Guangzhou.

The most recent and surprising use of the field notes came as a referral from a colleague at the Botanical Research Institute in Fort Worth Texas. He is working with curators at the Amon Carter Art Museum of American Art on an exhibit planned for 2020. The museum has commissioned an artist to retrace the routes of 19th century naturalists throughout the Dallas/Fort Worth area and reimagine their experiences. They are particularly interested in Charles Wright so we sent links to his correspondence and field notes and the curators visited the Botany Libraries in December to see the material and to view collecting tools and artifacts in the archives. They plan to return with the artist next year to continue their research. Visits from artists are not unusual, but applying field notes to an art project is a first for us. The Wright field notes, digitized as part of a previous project, will also be deposited in BHL in the near future.

Keiko Nishimoto, the Botany Libraries’ former Collection Services Archivist, prepared a small exhibit on the CLIR field notes project to promote the project to herbaria staff and visitors. The first case explained the importance of field notes, showed examples of the records in the archives, and explained why they were being digitized. The second case featured the works of women botanists Mary Strong Clemens (1873-1968), who collected in New Guinea, northern Borneo, and Sulawesi, and Rae Baldwin Kennedy (1879-1952) who worked in Bermuda.

Earlier grants allowed us to target particular collectors and expeditions, but the CLIR funds gave us the opportunity to open the document boxes and scan the bulk of the collection. Cataloging and access have been enhanced as has our knowledge of the entire collection. We look forward to sharing these resources virtually and to hosting users with both traditional and reimagined ways of using them.

Written by: 
Judy Warnement 
Librarian of Harvard University Botany Libraries

The BHL Field Notes Project is funded by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR).