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 .

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Project’s Beginnings

In 2010, the Smithsonian Field Book Project (FBP) began as a joint initiative between the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) and the Smithsonian Institution Archives (SIA) to create one online location for scholars and others to visit when searching for field books and other field research materials. Initially funded by the Council for Library and Information Resources (CLIR) and led by co- investigators Rusty Russell and Anne Van Camp, the FBP began to catalog field books in participating departments across the Smithsonian. The FBP developed a cataloging system that bridges the metadata gap between collection-level and item-level description. Using this framework, the FBP has cataloged more than 7,200 field books across 8 departments and divisions of the Smithsonian. Field book catalog records were made available to the public for the first time in December 2012 on Smithsonian’s Collection Search Center.

Over the course of the grant period, NMNH and SIA worked together to acquire additional funding to support the conservation and digital imaging of the field books to further enhance access. Grants from Save America’s Treasures and the Smithsonian Women’s Committee supported conservation and digitization staff and interns. As a result, the cataloged field books have been assessed by conservation staff, which has enabled ongoing conservation and digitization. Although these initial grants have concluded, the Field Book Project continues to make significant strides towards improving online access to scientists’ field notes.

Field Book Project and BHL

As of the summer of 2014, the FBP joined with Smithsonian Libraries and BHL to expand its cataloging and digitization efforts in continued partnership with Smithsonian Institution Archives. Now in our second phase, we continue to discover, catalog, and conserve field books at the Smithsonian, but with the expanded goal of digitization for a significant number of field books, and publication of the digital content to the Biodiversity Heritage Library. This project phase continues to involve the National Museum of Natural History and Smithsonian Institution Archives with the addition of the Smithsonian Libraries and the Biodiversity Heritage Library. During this phase of the project, cataloging, digitization, and BHL upload documentation will be made available to BHL partners who are working on their own field book projects to encourage them to also contribute this type of content to the BHL web platform. That documentation is available on our <link>Workflow and Cataloging Resources</link> page.

As of summer 2015, the FBP received additional funds from Arcadia. This work will result in continued cataloging, increased digitization, and a vast increase in the number of digital field books searchable alongside scientific publications from the same collectors in BHL. With the conclusion of the Arcadia grant portion of the project, the team will then provide support and digitize field books for the CLIR-funded BHL Field Notes Project.

Field Book Project Elsewhere

In addition to our work with BHL, the Field Book Project also contributes catalog records and digitized content to online repositories like Digital Public Library of America. The FBP maintains a social media presence on Twitter @FieldBookProj and its project blog. The FBP is also pleased to be a contributor to Smithsonian Transcription Center. Participation has fostered excitement about these materials and created new opportunities for using field books as transcribed content is fully text searchable. More than 300 field books have been transcribed and reviewed by volunteers. As more field books are transcribed, information within them can be utilized in new ways: reconstructing historical ecologies, clarifying specimen provenance, and re-discovering localities.
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