More than 250,000 Free Nature Images Now Available in the BHL Flickr

illustration of red flowers with green stems and leaves.

The most-viewed image in the BHL Flickr as of February 2021. Vincent, Henriette Antoinette. Études de fleurs et de fruits. c1820. Art by Vincent. Contributed in BHL from Chicago Botanic Garden, Lenhardt Library. Link in Flickr. Link in BHL.

Over a quarter of a million nature images are now freely available through the BHL Flickr!

Since 2011, we’ve been making many of the illustrations from BHL’s collection available via Flickr. While it has long been a community favorite amongst our audiences, in 2020 our Flickr’s popularity increased significantly when it received considerable media attention in outlets including Colossal, Laughing Squid, Český rozhlas, ZME Science, Cultura Inquieta, Hyperallergic, Graffica, Smithsonian Magazine, Open Culture, la Repubblica, Genbeta, My Modern Met (en Español), eCulture Greece, Daily Geek Show, Вокруг Света, Atlas Obscura, Shifter, Lifehacker, Indiehoy, Microsiervos, and Vice. As a result of this publicity in February 2020, we saw a 518% increase in daily views on Flickr images (2.5 million daily views compared to an average of 400,000) and an over 100% increase in visits and unique visitors to BHL. This popularity continued throughout the year, culminating in over 343 million views on images in 2020 alone—a 123% increase over 2019, bringing our all-time views to over 902 million!

Last year also offered a unique opportunity to substantially build our Flickr collection. With many of our partners working virtually in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we focused on projects to improve our digital collections remotely. This work included uploading images to Flickr. In 2020, over 40 BHL partner staff and volunteers contributed to the upload of over 90,000 new images to Flickr—a nearly 200% increase in images uploaded compared to 2019.

illustration of multiple butterflies positioned on top of one another.

The second most-viewed image in the BHL Flickr as of February 2021. Séguy, Emile-Allain. Papillons. 1925. Art by Séguy. Contributed in BHL from Smithsonian Libraries and Archives. Link in Flickr. Link in BHL.

Thanks to this impressive work, our Flickr collection now includes over 250,000 free images dating from the 16th-20th centuries and representing a range of biodiversity subjects, from plants and animals to fungi, microscopic organisms, and even artifacts like tools made from shells. All images in the BHL Flickr are free to browse, download, and reuse. You can learn more about reusing images from Flickr on the BHL About site.

This post features some of the most popular (by views) images in the BHL Flickr.

illustration of fungi with an indusium.

The third most-viewed image in the BHL Flickr as of February 2021. Möller, Alfred. Brasilische Pilzblumen. 1895. Art by Richard Volk. Contributed in BHL from The LuEsther T Mertz Library, the New York Botanical Garden. Link in Flickr. Link in BHL.

Images in Flickr are curated by album and collection. Each album corresponds to a particular volume in BHL and contains all of the full page images from that volume. Images and albums are further curated into collections on particular subjects, from botanical art to marine species, gardening, endangered species, and more. We also have collections associated with BHL’s various social media campaigns, including Her Natural History (featuring a collection of illustrations by women artists, each tagged with the name of the artist), Monsters Are Real (featuring images of mythical creatures like hydra, sea serpents, and kraken), Color Our Collections (featuring black and white illustrations perfect for printing and coloring), and Fossil Stories (featuring a wealth of historic paleontological art).

Flickr helps improve image discoverability for BHL, not only by making it easier to browse images from BHL’s collection of over 59 million pages, but also by providing an opportunity for the public to help enhance the metadata for these images through crowdsourcing, making it easier to search the images by species, artist, geographic location, and more! Visit our About site to learn more about how to search images in the BHL Flickr.

illustration of a bird sitting amongst pink flowers.

The fourth most-viewed image in the BHL Flickr as of February 2021. Bird World Magazine, v.1 (1906-1907). Art by John Gerrard Keulemans. Contributed in BHL from the University Library at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Link in Flickr. Link in BHL.

Through our Flickr Tagging Crowdsourcing Project, we invite anyone to help add tags to Flickr images that describe the species depicted, identify the artist of the image, or indicate the geographic location in which the depicted species lives. To date, over 46,000 images, or about 18% of our Flickr collection, has been tagged by the public. This is an incredible accomplishment, but don’t worry—there’s still plenty of images in need of tags. And the best part? This is an educational activity that you can do from home!

We are so grateful to all of our volunteers who have helped tag our images. Thanks to you, these images are more accessible and discoverable for others to support their research and educational activities.

We welcome anyone to join us in tagging images in our Flickr. Learn how to get started with these detailed tagging instructions.

Illustration of bees.

The fifth most-viewed image in the BHL Flickr as of February 2021. Shuckard, William Edward. British Bees. 1866. Art by Edward William Robinson. Contributed in BHL from MBLWHOI Library. Link in Flickr. Link in BHL.

We invite you to explore our image collections on Flickr today. Thank you to all of our incredible partners who have helped build this amazing resource, and to all of our volunteers who have helped improve it through image tagging. We encourage you to download and reuse the images for your own educational, artistic, personal, and professional uses, and to help us improve the collections by participating in our tagging project.

Enjoy immersing yourself in the beauty of nature through art!

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.