The Arcadia Fund Awards Grant to Support The Field Book Project

The Smithsonian Libraries received a $511,200 grant from the Arcadia Fund for The Field Book Project to provide free, online access to the Smithsonian’s field books on biodiversity research. Over a two-year period, the grant will support the cataloging of 2,000 field books and the digitization of 2,600 field books, which will be made openly available via multiple platforms, including the Smithsonian’s Collection Search Center and the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL).

The Smithsonian holds thousands of field books documenting the flora, fauna and ecosystems of the world. Launched in 2010, The Field Book Project is a collaboration to improve access to these field notes and other primary source documentation of field research related to biodiversity. As primary sources, field books are not only unique as material objects, but many also contain unique information on species and ecosystems – information that may be unpublished and unavailable through other sources.

The Smithsonian Libraries, the Smithsonian Institution Archives, BHL and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History will work closely together to conduct conservation reviews, catalog, digitize and provide open access to the natural history field books at the Smithsonian. “Bringing these works together with the published literature means we can begin to fill some of these information gaps to better understand ecosystem changes and the context behind the research. Such knowledge can empower scientists, regional and national leaders, and others to develop strategies for addressing biodiversity loss,” said Martin Kalfatovic, BHL program director.

The work of initiatives like The Field Book Project directly relates to the Smithsonian’s grand challenge of broadening access to collections. “Original field notes are often hidden in larger collections of archival material and are difficult to find,” explained Anne Van Camp, director of the Smithsonian Institution Archives. “Information contained in field books tells the stories of exploration, discovery and collecting events that have shaped our understanding of the natural world. The notes also provide deep insight into the personal nature of those individuals that first encountered the vast biodiversity across the Earth. Providing access to this information allows researchers to further understand the history of scientific exploration and to relate that past to the present.”

Browse over 500 field books from The Field Book Project in BHL. Stay tuned to our blog for future updates from The Field Book Project.

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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.