BHL launch

by Kate C
Publish date
14 July 2011
Comments (8)

The Australian node of the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) is now live!

BHL is a project started by a consortium of American and English museums and herbaria that wanted to make historical biodiversity texts available online. These important books and journals are scanned, uploaded to the Internet Archive, and made available through the first BHL website. It's especially useful to scientists needing historical information about species, distributions and taxonomy, but it's also a fascinating site for anyone interested in natural history or rare books. Museum Victoria is managing the Australian part of the project in conjunction with the Atlas of Living Australia.

Since late last year, MV Online Developer Michael Mason has been creating a mirror site of the USA/UK original, ready to receive scans of Australian books later this year. At present, the Australian site provides everything the original site provides but with a different interface. "We started with the US model and changed the appearance and some parts of the functionality," says Michael.

Michael Mason Online developer Michael Mason.
Source: Museum Victoria

The first difference you'll notice is the local influence; the page is adorned with beautiful illustrations of Australian wildlife by Gould and Australian books are featured. Michael has also worked with designer Simon O'Shea to overhaul the way the book viewer looks and works to make it more user-friendly.

Screenshot of BHL Biodiversity Heritage Library Australia website.
Source: Museum Victoria

At present, the 34,596,227 pages in the BHL-Australian node come from libraries in US institutions so there is plenty of Australian content yet to be added. First off the rank in this national project are some of the in-house journals that have already been scanned by other museums including those of the Queensland Museum and the Western Australian Museum. Museum Victoria, with new book-scanning equipment, will be leading the development of new scanning projects starting with the complete archive of Memoirs of Museum Victoria containing the first scientific descriptions of many Victorian animal species. This will be very handy for biologists worldwide who don't have ready access to hard copies of this journal. Later on, rare books from MV and the libraries of other Australian institutions will be scanned and uploaded.

The high-quality scans are not just useful, but often quite beautiful. You get the whole book – covers, library labels, marbled endpapers and marks of age – not just the text within. Michael's favourites are the 1600s books in Latin with fantastical illustrations. "You'd never get to see these in a library, they're too fragile and valuable," he says. BHL puts these wonderful books in the hands of anyone.


Biodiversity Heritage Library Australia

Biodiversity Heritage Library

MV News: BHL visitors

Comments (8)

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Bec 14 July, 2011 10:56
Great work Michael, LOVE the new look and can't wait for your new functionality. The content is ripper but I am so gald you have reworked the 'look'. A beautiful portal will also attract visitors, Congratualations!
Charles 14 July, 2011 12:18
Will this also access content that is being delivered through Europeana's BHL project?
Cecily 14 July, 2011 12:22
What a wonderful idea to share these texts with the world! This is important work as these books wont last forever.
Ely Wallis 14 July, 2011 14:29

Hi Charles,

At the moment we are taking content from the current BHL (US), pulling the content primarily from the Internet Archive. So where content from the Europeana BHL project is also in BHL (US) then it will be in the Australian node. We aren't currently pulling digitized literature from European institutions where that's not already in BHL. However, we are in contact with the BHL-Europe team as part of the BHL global community and we will meet again in November in Chicago where further global sharing of content will be discussed.

Mariam 14 July, 2011 20:23
Great work, guys! we too here at the Library of Alexandria, Egypt are looking forward to our BHL mirror. will be adding Arabic content on biodiversity.
Bob Corrigan 15 July, 2011 00:27
Hi Michael, Quick recommendation - when a link to EOL is surfaced by the UBio button on a page, I suggest you open that page in a new window, as going back to BHL-AU from EOL resets the page on the document you were browsing to page 1, which is not a delightful experience. Beside that, I really like the whole interface and user experience. Well done!
William Ulate 15 July, 2011 05:36
Congratulations, I am really excited to see the wonderful contributions that BHL-Au is bringing to the Global BHL family! As usual, making a positive difference in all our common endeavors, keep up the excellent work!
phil 15 July, 2011 06:03
Ely, Michael and all at the ALA, you've done an amazing job, you should be very proud of your work on building the site!
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