200 Years. 200 Stories. Story 178: “Biodiversity Heritage Library ”

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screen capture from www.biodiversityheritagelibrary.org
Screen capture from www.biodiversityheritagelibrary.org showing a plate from Gemeinnüzzige Naturgeschichte des Thierreichs (1780-89). Academy Library & Archives QL45.B7.

Biodiversity Heritage Library

The Academy’s Ewell Sale Stewart Library is world renowned for its holdings of rare and historic printed books in every discipline of the natural sciences. It recently added another accolade to its ever-growing list. In 2009, the Library was accepted as a member of the prestigious Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL). With members around the world, the BHL was launched in 2007 and consists of natural history museum libraries, botanical libraries, and research institutions which are all dedicated to the digitization of published literature on biodiversity. By scanning and contributing their holdings to a shared repository, the member libraries present materials on biodiversity and make them widely available to researchers worldwide.

Today, the Academy Library’s collection contains more than 250,000 volumes and well over a million archival items, a dramatic expansion from the five books and two maps that established the Library in 1812 at the founding meeting of the Academy. The collection includes journals, maps, photographs, correspondences, and field notes from noted explorers and scientists around the world. It also contains published books and journals, some dating from the 1500s. The Academy began scanning and digitizing its collection in 1993, and the digital versions of its books and journals now contribute to the nearly 38 million pages of the BHL collection.

The Academy’s holdings of books and journals are so complete that other member institutions often request its volumes to complete their collections, highlighting the collaborative nature of the project. The Smithsonian Institution Libraries in Washington, D.C., recently asked to utilize two volumes of the 19th century Italian journal Bollettino Scientifico that were missing from their collection. The Academy Library contains the complete title in excellent condition, but the Smithsonian was missing 1885’s Volume 7 and 1888’s Volume 10. Because the Academy’s volumes were in such good condition, we lent them to the Smithsonian, where they are now being scanned and digitized.

Learn more about the Library’s commitment to sharing knowledge worldwide, and peruse the Library’s online catalog.

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