Yelling Across the Divide: New Contexts for Using Library, Archival, and Museum Collections


Sat, 11/19/2011 - 3:00am - 4:30am
Room: Cairo


  1. Name: Carolyn Sheffield
    Title: Project Manager, Field Book Project
    Organization: Smithsonian Institution
  2. Name: Danielle Castronovo
    Title: Archives & Digital Collections Librarian
    Organization: California Academy of Sciences
  3. Name: Rebecca Morin
    Title: User Services Librarian
    Organization: California Academy of Sciences


The Field Book Project, The Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL), and Connecting Content are distinct yet intersecting projects that use collaboration and innovation to leverage resources and improve access to important natural history collections. Each can be defined as collaborative in its own right. The three projects also directly collaborate with one another to build connections and ensure compatibility across related resources. The Field Book Project is a CLIR-funded project to improve access to primary-source field books at the Smithsonian and is being extended to accept content from other natural history museums. BHL is a consortium of 12 libraries working to digitize and deliver legacy taxonomic literature, and Connecting Content is an IMLS-funded project to define and provide logical connections between field notes, specimens, and published literature.

This session will present an overview of how these projects complement each other.

Session Description:

The Field Book Project is a joint initiative between the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) and the Smithsonian Institution Archives to create one online location for accessing field books documenting biodiversity research. The Smithsonian houses thousands of field books, unpublished

journals, and images related to field research, most falling into the category of "hidden" collections, or collections for which little or no documentation exists. These items can provide rich contextual data about habitats in which specimens were found, environmental measurements at the time of collection, and personal observations of the collector.

Funding from the Council of Library and Information Resources(CLIR) supports cataloging Smithsonian field books in an online registry. The current scope of the Field Book Registry includes Smithsonian research related to Botany, Entomology, Invertebrate and Vertebrate Zoology. In the near future, the Registry will begin accepting records contributed by museums from throughout the country.

The Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) is a consortium of 12 natural history and botanical libraries that cooperate to digitize and make accessible the legacy literature of biodiversity held in their collections and to make that literature available for open access as a part of a global "biodiversity commons." BHL also serves as the foundational literature component of the Encyclopedia of Life (EOL). The published literature in BHL includes works relevant to expeditions, collectors and collected specimens described in field books.

Connecting Contentis a collaborative effort led by the California Academy of Sciences (CAS) and involves the Missouri Botanical Garden, Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, Harvard University Botany Libraries, Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology Library, the New York Botanical Garden and the Smithsonian Institution's NMNH.

CAS was awarded an Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) National Leadership Grant entitled "Connecting Content: A Collaboration to Link Field Notes to Specimens and Published Literature." While published literature and biological specimens have direct relationships to field notes, the added value of those connections is difficult to assess because identifying those connections currently requires extensive research. Connecting Content involves the digitization of field notebooks and specimen collections and the generation of metadata for these items. Six of the seven institutions will conduct pilot projects to develop the means to link specimen collection records with the Field Book Registry and also to the published materials in BHL. The final deliverables will include an enhanced Field Book Registry and workflow procedures so that other institutions may contribute to this project.

Session Info

  • Type: Full Panel
  • Keywords:
  • Relevance: This session will present on emerging strategies for bridging the gap between libraries, archives, and museums for improved access to collections in an online environment. The strategies and technologies discussed could be applied in a variety of contexts across museum departments and the speakers hope that it will lead to fruitful discussions on possibilities presented by collaboration and emerging technologies.