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Library & Archives

3 Posts authored by: Alison Harding

The new Biodiversity Heritage Library User Interface is active today. 


Please take a look and  I suggest you check out the guide to the new BHL Guide to the New BHL .


A blog post has been set up, with links tweets and Facebook posts. 


Of particular interest will be the ability to search BHL by articles (>80,000 will be indexed and available in BHL by the launch) and improvements to the PDF generation process.


Coincidentally BHL Europe is launching today.


Its an exciting time for BHL and all associated with it.  We hope th users will find the new site an BHL a useful additional tool in their portfolio.  PLease send your comments to or leave a comment on the blog post.


Alison Harding




Imagine a natural history library open 24 hours a day with all your essential journals and books inside.  The

Biodiversity Heritage Library will be that Library.  It is available 24 hours, wherever you are, for free, with over

38 million pages of information already scanned and more being added everyday.


It all started about 2005 with a consortium of Natural History and Botanical Libraries meeting to organise the what

and how of a freely available resource of biodiversity literature.  The consortium was mostly based in the USA (eg

Smithsonian, Missouri Botanic Garden, American Museum of Natural History) plus the NHM and Kew. The idea was to

create a freely available resource containing the legacy literature of biodiversity taken from the collections of

the members of the consortium. The first portal was launched was in 2007.


The participating institutions realised that their collections of rare and historic scientific information that are

essential for taxonomics and systematics were available to visitors only.  Natural history is unusual in science in

that historic data is essential and must be consulted.  Hence BHL is destined to be one of the largest subject

specific resources on the Internet.




The material scanned into BHL includes anything in the public domain (upto 1923 in the USA and 100 years old in the

UK) or items where agreement has been reached with the copyright holder.  Recently material has been ingested from

sources other than the BHL consortium members such as the Internet Archive, the University of Illinois at

Urbana-Champaign.  Additionally any user may request items for digitisation (using the feedback button on the top

right of the BHL screen).


This amazing resource is free to use and is available anywhere that has Internet access, so from the Museum, from

home and out in the field.  All pages are index for scientific names using UBIO ( ).  Material can

be downloaded as a PDF or OCR, all or page by page or just images.  The bibliographic information can be downloaded

in MODS, BibTeX or EndNote format.  The information downloaded can be saved, re-used or re-purposed freely, see the

BHL Flickr site BHL also has a presence on Facebook, Twitter and

itunes, and has a blog featuring book of the week, articles by users of BHL, information about meetings and new

developments, and much more!


By promoting itself as an open digital collection, BHL allows the taxonomic names and associated bibliographic

information to be used by other digital initiatives such as Encyclopedia of life, Tropicas, Biostor and Citebank

The BHL family is expanding with collections coming online for Europe, Australia, China, Brazil and Egypt.  Also

negotiations are underway to initialise a project for Sub-Saharan Africa. 



Chris scanning at the Scribe machine.


The Natural History Museum has contributed 639 titles to BHL since scanning started in 2007.  Scanning is carried

out using a Scribe machine which incorporates a super structure that supports two cameras on sliding tracks, lights

(continuous, not flash), a bed and glass platen set at an angle, with a foot pedal for raising and lowering the

platen. The Cameras are Canon Mark IIs. Images are processed using software developed at Internet Archive

(processing includes cropping, rotating/ de-skewing, and converting from RAW to JPEG2000) and then uploaded to the

Internet Archive, where they are further converted to .pdf, .epub, etc. The scans need to be associated with the

appropriate metadata from the Library catalogue, achieved using Z39.50 technology.  Library staff are heavily

involved in the preparation of items for scanning.


Help expand the BHL user-base and have a look today.  If you need any help please contact me via


The Library of the NHM at Tring is taking part in Science Uncovered during the evening of Friday 23rd September, from 6pm. The theme of the Library presentation is Natural History Illustration from Gutenberg to the end of the 19th century.  We will be featuring material from the extensive Library of Lionel Walter Rothschild and using the literature of ornithology for our examples.  Tickets for the six sessions (18.15, 18,45, 19.15, 20.15, 20.45, 21.15) are free and will be available on the evening from the Museum shop.  There are plenty of other activities on the night, see the website


In London the Library is hosting a display of its treasures including Charles Darwin's 'On the origin of species' and items from the First Fleet voyage to Australia.  Details of this and other events in South Kensington can be found here