Introducing the BHL Field Notes Project

In 2015, the Council on Library and Information Resources awarded the Biodiversity Heritage Library a grant to fund the BHL Field Notes Project. Part of CLIR’s Digitizing Hidden Special Collections and Archives initiative, this project is a collaborative undertaking which will provide open access to field notes from several different institutions. By project end, BHL users will have access to over 450,000 pages of natural history field research material. This rich source of field notes includes diaries, journals, correspondence, and photographs.

The importance of field notes is well known to researchers. To natural scientists, field notes offer records of the flora and fauna of a location at a certain point in time. These records serve as reference points when observing how a certain habitat has changed over time. They can also offer information on expeditions, or the source of museum collection items. Field notes also present narratives that give insight into the scientists as people and their relationship with the locations and cultures they studied, making them an important resource for science historians.

The BHL has already started adding field notes to its collection, and the Field Notes Project hopes to add great value to the field notes already available. This project brings together the efforts of eleven institutions:

  • American Museum of Natural History
  • Field Museum of Natural History Library
  • Harvard University Botany Libraries
  • Harvard University, Museum of Comparative Zoology, Ernst Mayr Library
  • Internet Archive
  • LuEsther T. Mertz Library, The New York Botanical Garden
  • Missouri Botanical Garden, Peter H. Raven Library & Center for Biodiversity Informatics
  • Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, University of California, Berkeley
  • Smithsonian Institution Archives
  • Smithsonian Libraries
  • Yale Peabody Museum Archives

We are excited to be part of the effort to add more archival material to the BHL. Stay tuned for upcoming features which will highlight contributions from—and go behind-the-scenes at—some of our partners. In the meantime, explore some of the great field notes already digitized in the BHL Field Notes Project collection.

Avatar for Adriana Marroquin
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Adriana Marroquin is the project manager for the Biodiversity Heritage Library Field Notes Project and the Smithsonian Field Book Project. She previously served as a library technician at Smithsonian Libraries and as a contractor for two projects: the American Art and Portrait Gallery library’s Art & Artist Corporate Files Database and BHL’s Latino Natural History exhibition.