The Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) is the world’s largest online repository of library and archival materials related to biodiversity. Its aim is to make the world’s biodiversity literature openly available online.
In Australia, BHL is managed by Museum Victoria and we have been contributing to this global resource since 2011. We have a team of wonderful volunteers who digitise our rare books and historic journals and prepare the digital versions for publication online. Over the past 4 years, BHL Australia has digitised 593 items comprising almost 150,000 pages of our biological heritage that used to be locked up in our library archives.
|Bob Griffith, BHL Volunteer, digitising a rare book from the State Botanical Collection. Image: Nicole Kearney. Source: Museum Victoria.|
Earlier this year we learned that our digitisation operation would have to be shut down for several months while Museum Victoria undergoes a major reorganisation of its collection stores. The stores will be much more efficiently arranged after the move, but while the relocation is occurring the collections will be inaccessible – and this includes our library collection.
An idea began to germinate…
The National Herbarium Library at the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria have long been interested in the BHL, and researchers at the Herbarium certainly use and appreciate the BHL resource. They were very keen to digitise their own library collection, but didn’t have the resources to do so. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to collaborate and undertake a project that would be of benefit to both institutions.
|National Herbarium, Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria. Image: Nicole Kearney. Source: Museum Victoria.|
Last week Museum Victoria moved its entire digitisation operation to the other side of Melbourne. The equipment, volunteers and our BHL staff will be spending the summer at the Royal Botanic Gardens. Just yesterday we digitised the first book from their State Botanical Collection and it will soon be available online.
As the lead organisation for BHL in Australia, a major part of our role is to encourage and support other organisations to digitise their own collections. The Royal Botanic Gardens joins our other partners – the Australian Museum, the South Australian Museum and the Queensland Museum – in making their own biodiversity heritage openly available online.