Happy New Year! It’s Been a Great Year

Welcome to 2015! We’re excited for another year to see BHL continue to grow and improve. We have lots of great things planned, particularly in the global sphere. Stay Tuned on our blog, Twitter and Facebook to learn more!

Today, we thought we’d take the opportunity to look back over 2014 and highlight some of the great things we’ve accomplished. It’s been a good year, and we have lots to be proud of!

Collection Growth

  • This year, BHL collections grew to over 45 million pages of open access, biodiversity literature spanning over 500 years of scientific exploration and discovery. We added over 2.7 million new pages to our corpus in 2014, which included 119 new in-copyright titles, shared via Creative Commons licenses. Check out some of the post-1923 titles in BHL.
  • Also in 2014, our Flickr collection grew to include almost 94,000 free, open access natural history illustrations provided under Creative Commons licenses. Over 5,500 images were added this year alone. Let’s see if we can reach 100,000 by 2016!

Consortium Growth

New Staff

Technical and Website Developments

  • This year, the Missouri Botanical Garden, on behalf of BHL, was a recipient of the third IMLS Digging Into Data Challenge, which funds the Mining Biodiversity project. The project aims to create a next generation digital library by enriching BHL with semantic metadata and enhanced search visualization through deployment of advanced text-mining techniques. Furthermore, the project is exploring ways to make BHL more “social,” allowing for collaborative curation where users can easily share and discuss our collections.
    • Progress in 2014: Project staff surveyed users to identify the best way to present semantic search results in BHL; Developed a first version of the tool to automatically correct OCR using Google n-grams algorithms; Refined the algorithms that will mine BHL for term, concept and event extraction; Performed extensive analysis of BHL social networks; Integrated tools to facilitate easy sharing of content via the BHL website; and began tracking BHL usage across the web via Altmetric. Learn more about the project on our website.
  • Art of Life: Funded by a 2012 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Art of Life project aims to improve access to the natural history illustrations within BHL. This year, the image-finding algorithms developed by the Indianapolis Museum of Art Lab were run across 18 million BHL pages, resulting in over 135,000 pages tagged as having illustrations within the BHL portal. Pages with illustrations are currently being manually classified by volunteers as belonging to one or more image types: drawing, table, photograph, map, and/or bookplate. Over 89,000 pages have been classified to date. Next steps for the project are to crowdsource descriptions for the images’ content (e.g. subjects, dates, illustrator) through platforms such as Flickr and Wikimedia Commons.
    • BHL will also be crowdsourcing image descriptions through another platform, Zooniverse, the premier host for citizen science projects. This opportunity came about through a partnership with Constructing Scientific Communities (aka ConSciCom).
  • Purposeful Gaming: With an objective to improve access to BHL texts through gamifying the text correction process, BHL continues to gather OCR data through automated and manual means (as through the transcription of William Brewster’s journals). This year, BHL selected the project’s game designer, Tiltfactor, which will build two games whereby users can help verify the accuracy of the generated OCR. Those corrections will then be incorporated back into the BHL portal for viewing by users and to enable full text searching. To date, Tiltfactor has completed the beta testing for prototypes for the two games, which are expected to release in May, 2015.
    • Digitization of seed and nursery catalogs also continues as part of the grant. As the fonts and formatting of seed catalogs are traditionally prone to OCR error, these digitized works will be used to further inform the project’s OCR correction and game activities.
  • Browse by Contributor: This year, BHL also added the ability for users to view all books contributed to BHL by a single institution.

Social Media and Outreach

  • The joint Smithsonian Libraries/BHL exhibit at the National Museum of Natural History, entitled “Once There Were Billions,” launched in June, 2014. The exhibit, which runs through October, 2015, highlights extinct North American bird species and features Martha, the last Passenger Pigeon. BHL published a series of blog posts and co-produced a TwitterChat in support of the exhibit.
  • Shark Week! Curious about the history of the discovery of the shark? Then you’ll love our blog post!
  • Monsters Are Real! In celebration of Halloween, BHL produced a multi-platform social media campaign featuring monsters in historic books and describing the stories, people, books, and animals that inspired these creatures.
  • Thanks to a grant from the Smithsonian Women’s Committee, awarded to the Smithsonian Libraries, BHL produced two online exhibitions this year: Early Women in Natural History and Latino Natural History. The exhibitions showcase the scientific and historical contributions of Women and Latino naturalists and illustrators.
We’re quite proud of our accomplishments this year. Explore more project news and developments in our Quarterly Reports and Newsletters.
We’re excited about all we will accomplish in 2015, and look forward to sharing new developments with you on this blog, Twitter, Facebook, and our Newsletters. You can help support ongoing collections growth and program activities through a tax-deductible donation. Curious why historic literature and BHL are important to modern scientific work and conservation activities? See our blog series.
Happy New Year from the Staff at BHL!
Avatar for Grace Costantino
Written by

Grace Costantino served as the Outreach and Communication Manager for the Biodiversity Heritage Library from 2014 to 2021. In this capacity, she developed and managed BHL's communication strategy, oversaw social media initiatives, and engaged with the public to excite audiences about the wealth of biodiversity heritage available in BHL. Prior to her role as Outreach and Communication Manager, Grace served as the Digital Collections Librarian for Smithsonian Libraries and as the Program Manager for BHL.