BHL Australia’s mission is to make Australia’s biodiversity literature freely accessible and discoverable. Ten years ago, we started with a single contributing organisation, Museums Victoria, and a team of five incredibly dedicated volunteers. Over the past 10 years, BHL Australia has grown. Our operation is still hosted by Museums Victoria (at the Melbourne Museum), but we now digitise literature (and ingest born-digital material) on behalf of 27 organisations across the country.
We are now a truly national project, representing Australia’s state and territory museums, herbaria, royal societies and field naturalists clubs, as well as government agencies and natural history publishers. Together these organisations have contributed more than 350,000 pages from over 2,400 volumes.
These volumes include treasures such as George Shaw’s The Naturalist’s Miscellany (1789-1813), Helena Forde and Harriet Scott’s Australian lepidoptera and their transformations, drawn from the life (1890-1898) and John Gould’s A synopsis of the birds of Australia, and the adjacent Islands (1837).
This week we’ll be featuring these and other beautiful rare books from our online collection via BHL’s Instagram and the @bhl_au Twitter account. BHL Australia has also uploaded an extensive list of journals onto BHL (they may not be as pretty, but they’re just as important). To peruse all 2,400 volumes, see our full BHL Australia Collection. Our volunteer team has also grown considerably since 2010; BHL Australia now has 15 amazing volunteers who do the majority of our scanning, cropping, image processing and metadata addition work, as well as 3 science communication volunteers. (You may have seen their hugely successful takeover of the BHL Instagram account during #BirdWeek last year.)
Of course, like so many other digitisation operations around the globe, BHL Australia is now in lockdown (and has been since mid-March). But out of adversity comes opportunity. While in lockdown, we’ve switched our focus from physical to born-digital material. We’ve welcomed new contributors and have uploaded journal volumes published as recently as late 2019. We’ve also started a major project (in collaboration with BHL superuser Rod Page) to upload article metadata for every Australian journal on BHL (we’re pretty obsessed with discoverability).
And, like so many others, we’ve also had to postpone our celebrations. We had planned to invite all our Australian contributors and volunteers to a big BHL birthday bash. That’s on hold for now, but in the meantime, here are our BHL staff – Cerise, Chris, Veronica and myself – waving our thanks to all those who support BHL Australia. To our volunteers, our contributors, the Atlas of Living Australia and our BHL community around the world – thank you for a wonderful 10 years!
The BHL Australia team: Manager Nicole Kearney (top right); Digitisation Coordinators Veronica Scholes (top left) and Cerise Howard (bottom right); and Technician Chris Healey (bottom left).