New Grant Helps The Field Museum Digitize Rare and Interesting Books!

One of the BHL partner institutions, The Field Museum Library, was recently awarded a small grant from the Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Illinois (CARLI) to contribute titles to the growing BHL corpus. The proposal entitled “Empowering Biodiversity Research,” allowed The Field Museum Library to contribute 34 new titles to the BHL.

Several titles chosen for digitization came from the Library’s impressive Edward E. Ayer Ornithological Library, housed in the collections of the Mary W. Runnells Rare Book Room.

The titles were chosen for digitization via several means:

Requests received from users, which are processed via BHL’s issue tracking system, Gemini, allows us to fulfill user requests, complete series fill-in’s, and keep us organized! One item specifically requested was the famous work of Dutch illustrator John Gerard Keulemans (1842-1912), Onze vogels in huis en tuin (‘Our Birds in House and Garden’). Published in 3 volumes between 1869-1876, this collection of 200 lithographed plates were hand colored by the author. Noted for his beautiful and scientifically accurate work, Keulemans also provided illustrations for both Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London, The Ibis as well as numerous other monographs throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries. With only 4 copies held in U.S. libraries, The Field Museum Library is the only BHL partner to own Onze vogels.


In-demand titles were also identified via the Library’s active Interlibrary Loan (ILL) program. This service allows institutions from all over the world to request loans of books or scans of articles from The Field Museum Library. Items that are out of copyright and related to biodiversity are flagged for potential digitization. The title, Neue Alpina, has been requested via ILL twice in the last six months. This periodical, complete in two volumes, was published 1821-1827 and is focused on the natural history of Switzerland. Also part of the Ayer Collection, The Field Museum Library is the only holder of this title in the U.S.

And finally, we often find pretty amazing items just by browsing the shelves! We came across an interesting item in our Herpetology Library from the collection of renowned herpetologist, Karl P. Schmidt. Les animaux de laboratoire: La grenouille (Anatomie et Dissection) is a short monograph about frog anatomy and a guide to dissection techniques. The amazing (and honestly, pretty fun) part of the book is the illustrations. The frog’s anatomy is dissected via multi-part anatomical flaps. The staff of the Internet Archive scanning center in Ft. Wayne, Indiana did a great job of capturing all of these flap elements during digitization.

Explore all items in the BHL contributed by The Field Museum Library here!

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Christine Giannoni is the Museum Librarian & Head of Library Collections at The Field Museum.