Inspiring discovery through free access to biodiversity knowledge.

The Biodiversity Heritage Library improves research methodology by collaboratively making biodiversity literature openly available to the world as part of a global biodiversity community.
BHL also serves as the literature component of the Encyclopedia of Life .


Current and Potential Audiences for BHL

The visual resources contained within BHL’s digital library currently serve a wide variety of
audiences spanning multiple disciplines including artists, historians, biologists, illustrators,
graphic designers/publishers, archivists, educators, students, and citizen scientists. We believe
there is also a large untapped audience of potential or prospective users who may not consider
science-based repositories as sources for illustrations. It is these audiences that will benefit the
most from the Art of Life project because the results from the project will not only make it easier
for them to discover and download illustrations from the BHL portal, but will also make it easier
for them to discover BHL illustrations in repositories and environments with which they are
already familiar (e.g. ARTstor).

Audience 1: Artists

· Motivation for use of BHL: Artists and illustrators looking for inspiration, writers
interested in documentation on the history of illustration, iconography in the
decorative arts, the history of printing practices; Graphic designers/publishers
interested in illustration styles, typesetting conventions, fonts, etc.

Requests from Artists
I am writing from the London based publishing house Black Dog Press, we are currently
working on the new book The Essence of Perfume. It has a very visual and historical
aspect, which will include lots of archive images. I am inquiring to see if it is possible to
[reproduce] a few images for the book…. I am trying to find images of many of the
different herbs, flowers and mosses used in perfumery.
- Joanna Harvey, Black Dog Press, 5/28/08, via direct e-mail

I work for a design company in Boulder, Colorado (Stantec). We were retained to do a
signage information system/wayfinding for a Botanical Garden, and we need several
images of Scientific Illustrations of flower/plants. Specifically, we were looking for
silhouettes, or black and white drawings (for graphic purposes).
- Julia Falk, CommArts Stantec, 4/5/1, via direct e-mail

Audience 2: Biologists

· Motivation for use of BHL: Taxonomists/Nomenclaturists - the visual resources
contained within BHL volumes are used for natural history surveys, species
identifications, and conservation assessments.

Testimonials from Biologists
I would like to point out how much easier my taxonomic and nomenclatorial research has
become recently, mainly due to the availability of literature online, mostly at BHL. You
can imagine that previously I had to rely on copies of individual papers sent to me by
colleagues, and my own library (much of which I photocopied as a student in the UK 30
years ago) here in Chiang Mai, Thailand, as there are no local libraries with the journals I
need to access. Research that previously took months now only takes a few hours!
- Adam Cotton, 4/14/2010, from BHL Feedback

My deepest gratitude for allowing me access to the digital version of the very rare
"Bulletin des Séances de la Société Entomologique de France". It has been very
important for my work on the database of the names of the butterflies of the world to be
able to consult at leisure this series, which is held by extremely few libraries in the world.
I cannot stress enough the importance of having access to electronic versions of the
literature, especially to us researchers who cannot benefit from well-endowed
institutional libraries. ………a great service to science by making openly accessible such
crucial works as the "Biologia Centrali-Americana", and now the above-mentioned
"Bulletin". I only wish that there were many more such electronic resources. Please keep
up the excellent work!
- Dr Gerardo Lamas, Museo de Historia Natural, Universidad Nacional Mayor de
San Marcos, 1/17/2006, from BHL Feedback

I am a huge fan of BHL and use it every day. I recently took a faculty position in
Spearfish, South Dakota (population about 8,000). The resources available through BHL
played an important role in deciding to accept this position given that without BHL I
would have virtually no easy access to historical taxonomic literature. Thank you and
keep up the good work.
- Ben van Ee, 1/17/2010, from BHL Feedback

Audience 3: Humanities Scholars

· Motivation for use of BHL: Historians of science – academic scholars using
illustrations and BHL materials to document and describe the use and importance of
plants, animals and other materials of the living world; Art Historians – scholars using
BHL materials to help inform views on changing techniques in imagery production
and the influence of natural history documentation in materials culture, cultural
exchange, and the production of textiles and other decorative arts.

Testimonials from Historians
“BHL makes many old, rare or hard-to-access science and natural history texts available
at the click of a mouse. In the past, if I was not sure whether or not a book was relevant
to my research, I would have to make a trip to London or other major archive, and seek it
out, perhaps spending a whole day only to find it was not relevant. Now I can check
quickly and easily online, flicking through texts. Nine times out of ten I can get what I
want from relevant texts by reading online; sometimes I supplement this by looking at
another copy or edition in the flesh. Even in this latter case, however, reading online first
(and re-checking afterwards) is an integral part of the research. My research has been
enhanced in that I am quickly able to cross-reference the work of many scientists and
naturalists against one another.”
- Professor Charlotte Sleigh, a Senior Lecturer in History of Science at the
University of Kent (UK), is a historian of science with a special interest in natural
history. 1/28/2011, from BHL Blog

“I've used a number of illustrations in my work. In my history of the cinchona missions for
example, I once had to purchase an illustration from the Hunt Botanical Library of the
Cinchona plant to use in both my research and in my presentations. I think it cost me a
small fortune in permission and reproduction costs. I would really appreciate digitized
images that would be easily available and inexpensive to use. Anyone interested in the
history of botany or natural history or evolution is going to have reason to use such
- Professor Betty Smocovitis, a historian of science in Departments of Biology
and History, University of Florida, Gainsville 6/30/2011, in an email to BHL staff

Audience 4: Library Staff and Scholars

· Motivation for use of BHL: Archivists – looking to contextualize their primary source
materials; Librarians – needing to assist users in finding illustrations within books or

Testimonials from Librarians
We recently were asked the question: who discovered the zebra fish? In searching the
Encyclopedia of Life I kept seeing the phrase “Hamilton, 1822” next to the “danio rerio”.
Wondering who Hamilton was, I searched WorldCat and discovered that Hamilton was
Francis Hamilton who had published in 1822 An account of the fishes found in the river
Ganges and its branches. I looked at the EOL record and clicked on the Biodiversity
Heritage Library link. One of the links was to a Hamilton book! In 1878 the book The
Fishes of India was published which included a description and a image of the danio
rerio. Links were provided to the exact place in the text where the fish was mentioned,
as well as to the plate with the fish itself illustrated. Not only that, but I could send the
patron the exact link to both pages which described her fish. How remarkable it was to
find this Harvard University book available so easily through the Biodiversity Heritage
Library. A great success for our patron, and we looked like magicians bringing the book
to her.
- Public librarian in Falmouth, Massachusetts, 4/24/2009, from BHL Feedback

Audience 5: Education and Outreach

· Motivation for use of BHL: Students (primary through graduate education, both
domestic and international) – learning how to use scientific literature but due to travel
expense, timing, or other reasons can’t access the original printed materials
contained within a physical library; Citizen scientists and enthusiasts – this audience
doesn’t have a scholarly or commercial interest but are individuals with a personal
passion for a topic. An online blog, BibliOdyssey,x is a great example of this type of
user. This site is devoted to “eclectic historic science and art images from rare
books and prints” and regularly selects BHL illustrations and books as the topics of
blog posts.

Testimonials from Education and Outreach
“My study concerns surveying a large number of ornithological narrative paintings, in
particular historical examples, in order to determine how these may be used by high
school and college biology teachers to teach certain key concepts in ecology while doing
'double duty' in illustrating subtle aspects of the history and nature of science.”
- Virginia Hunt, a doctoral candidate at LSU, used BHL site as part of her
dissertation on ornithological illustration

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