Help us Improve Access to Seed and Nursery Catalogs!

In celebration of our Garden Stories event, we’ve released some of our seed catalogs for transcription as part of our Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS)-funded Purposeful Gaming project. Seed catalogs are notoriously difficult subjects for Optical Character Recognition software (OCR) to parse (which produces searchable text files of digitized images), so searching the text of online vintage seed catalogs is often problematic. The picturesque fonts and elaborate page layouts so endearingly characteristic of seed catalogs cause the resulting OCR output to be error prone and less than optimal…at least up to now.
You can help us improve access to these valuable gardening resources by transcribing seed and nursery catalogs. Here’s a helpful tutorial to get you started!
A selection of catalogs digitized by The New York Botanical Garden as part of the Purposeful Gaming project were chosen for inclusion in our transcription sites because they contain text over/interspersed with images, difficult formatting, and hard-to-read scientific names. Selections include:
  • Choice flower seeds 1908Reason chosen: Numerous illustrations interspersed with text; OCR had difficulty rendering scientific names
  • Choice flower seeds 1914. Reason chosen: Some examples of text over illustrations, numerous illustrations interspersed with text


  • Floral gems (1922 Year Book). Reason chosen: Example of text over illustration; many scientific names
Help us improve access to these lovely seed and nursery catalogs by transcribing them. Share your discoveries with us by commenting on this post or posting on Twitter or Facebook with #BHLinbloom!

Happy Transcribing!

More Garden Stories Fun

Avatar for Grace Costantino
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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.