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  6. Canadian Museum of Nature is first Canadian partner of international biodiversity library network

Canadian Museum of Nature is first Canadian partner of international biodiversity library network

Philip Henry Gosse © Public domain


This illustration is one of about 250 in Entomologia Terrae Novae, by naturalist Philip Henry Gosse. It is recognized as the first attempt at classifying and illustrating the insects of Newfoundland, and is in the Canadian Museum of Nature's library collection. 

OTTAWA, July 27, 2016—The Canadian Museum of Nature has become the first Canadian partner of an international library network that provides online access to books, manuscripts and other material related to natural history. Some of the digitized works are centuries old or first editions.

The decade-old network, the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL), is headquartered at the Smithsonian Libraries in Washington, D.C. It includes libraries from natural history museums, botanical gardens and universities around the world. Among its founding members are the Smithsonian, the American Museum of Natural History, the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew and the Natural History Museum, London.

 “In joining the Biodiversity Heritage Library, we can more easily share the material in our own library with researchers around the world,” says Meg Beckel, President and CEO of the Canadian Museum of Nature. “We curate one of the oldest natural history collections in Canada, so digitization will be an important step in broadening the reach of these works, especially those connected with Canadian biodiversity.”    

The museum’s library includes a rare book collection with approximately 4,000 pre-20th century monographs, manuscripts and periodicals dating back to the 1500s. Topics cover scientific expeditions, natural history, and biological and earth sciences. Field notebooks and diaries from Canadian naturalists and explorers are also part of the collection.

The museum will now be responsible for scanning select material, page-by-page, for sharing on the BHL database. Digitization helps preserve the books, some of which require gloves and special care, by reducing the need for future handling. The painstaking process will begin in the fall, with works prioritized based on their unique qualities and value. Material will also be scanned if a request comes in from a researcher seeking a volume of interest.

Laura Smyk © Canadian Museum of Nature


Researcher Valerie Tait examines a rare book in the museum’s library. Digitization helps preserve the books, some of which require gloves and special care when handling them.

"We are excited to welcome the Canadian Museum of Nature as a BHL Affiliate. Through the inclusion of noteworthy material held in the museum's library, this partnership will strengthen our collections and enhance our capacity to provide free and open access to the world's natural history literature,” explains Martin R. Kalfatovic, Program Director, Biodiversity Heritage Library. “Furthermore, as our first partner in Canada, the Canadian Museum of Nature can help BHL forge alliances with additional Canadian institutions, ensuring the continued global growth of our library."

To date, the Biodiversity Heritage Library has over 180,000 scanned books and manuscripts online, representing some 49 million pages—from
15th-century Latin tomes, to seminal works by Charles Darwin and John James Audubon, to current 21st-century journals. Since detailed drawings are an important part of the study of flora and fauna, image plates and illustrations from the BHL collection are also made available in Flickr.  


About the Canadian Museum of Nature
The Canadian Museum of Nature is Canada’s national museum of natural history and natural sciences. It holds one of the oldest natural history collections in Canada, tracing its beginnings to 1842 with the formation of the Geological Survey of Canada. Its library consists of over 36,000 monographic titles and 2,000 periodicals, with a focus on biology, biodiversity, botany, conservation and care of collections, ecology, mineral sciences, natural history, palaeobiology, wildlife and zoology. The library’s subject strengths are in the Canadian Arctic, ornithology, systematics and taxonomy.

About the Biodiversity Heritage Library
The Biodiversity Heritage Library is a consortium of major natural history, botanical and research libraries that seek to contribute to the global “biodiversity commons” by digitizing and aggregating the resources housed within each of the participating institutions, providing free and open access to the legacy literature that underpins the work of the natural science community. For more information, visit the website at www.biodiversitylibrary.org.

Information for media:

Dan Smythe
Media Relations
Canadian Museum of Nature
613.566.4781; 613.698.9253 (cell)

Grace Costantino
Outreach and Communication Manager
Smithsonian Libraries | Biodiversity Heritage Library