The Art of Life: Data Mining and Crowdsourcing the Identification and Description of Natural History Illustrations from the Biodiversity Heritage Library, which was generously funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and ran from May 2012-April 2015, sought to liberate natural history illustrations from the digitized books and journals in the online Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) through development of software tools for automated identification and description of visual resources. BHL is an international consortium of the world’s leading natural history libraries, including Missouri Botanical Garden Library, that have collaborated with publishers, rights holders, and other interested parties to digitize the public domain literature documenting the world’s biological diversity within member libraries’ collections. BHL has partnered with Internet Archive for -effective and efficient mass scanning and storage of its digital library, resulting in the standards-based digitization and open access dissemination of more than 110,000 volumes and 40 million pages of core historic literature.
Contained within BHL’s digitized texts are millions of visual resources (plates, illustrations, figures, maps, and other images), many of which were produced by the finest botanical and zoological illustrators in the world, including the likes of John James Audubon, Georg Dionysus Ehret, and Pierre Redouté. These images are currently minimally described at a structural page level, enabling citation resolvers and human users to navigate to illustrations by page numbers, but the images lack sufficient descriptive metadata to enable dynamic filtering and inquiry based on factors like image type, color content, subject matter, or even names of the organisms depicted in the images.
Through this project Missouri Botanical Garden, in partnership with Indianapolis Museum of Art, built new software tools and augmented existing electronic publishing frameworks to run across the entire BHL corpus and identify the visual resources within, thereby ensuring these images are not only more useful to the current audience of scholars who consult BHL on a regular basis, and discoverable by new audiences, but also better interconnected with related materials across the Web. Scholars and educators who rely heavily on visual resources in their research and teaching (e.g. biologists, art historians, curators, historians of science) will, for the first time, be able to find and view a wealth of illustrations of plant and animal life from which to make connections between science, art, culture, and history.
A selection of illustrations from BHL’s Flickr photostream:
A full list of BHL sets at Flickr can be found at:
|The Art of Life project was generously funded by the|
Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this wiki page do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Missouri Botanical Garden
- Trish Rose-Sandler, Principal Investigator
- William UIate, Project Management/Budgeting
- Mike Lichtenberg, Programmer
- Doug Holland, Consultant
- Chuck Miller, Consultant
- Mike Blomberg, UI development
Indianapolis Museum of Art
- Ed Bachta, Programmer
- Kyle Jaebker, Project Management
- Charlie Moad, Project Management
University of Colorado, Boulder
- Gaurav Vaidya, Schema design & Wikimedia Commons liaison
- Rob Guralnick, Consultant
- Joel Richard
Co-chairs – Kyle Jaebker and Trish Rose-Sandler
- Doug Holland, Director, Missouri Botanical Garden Library
- Dr. Hong Cui, Assistant Professor, University of Arizona
- Dr. David Kohn, Director and General Editor, Darwin Manuscripts Project, American Museum of Natural History
- Charles Miller, Chief Information Officer, Missouri Botanical Garden
- Nancy Gwinn, Director,Smithsonian Institution Libraries
- Robert Guralnick, Associate Professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder
- Betty Smocovitis, Professor of Zoology and History at the University of Florida
- Revised & Approved Work Plan:
- Final Revised Worplan.
- Note: The revised work plan replaces pages 13-18 in the original narrative.
- Schedule of Completion:
- Examples of challenges we will encounter in trying to tag scientific names on illustrations.
- Whiteboard of initial design meeting with BHL dev team.
Both the algorithms and Macaw classification software tools are licensed as FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) and can be found on github.
Macaw tool built by the Smithsonian Libraries for classifying illustrations that were found by the algorithms:
Schema developed by University of Colorado Boulder and Missouri Botanical Garden for describing natural history illustrations:
- Final Report.
- NEH Interim report May ’14-Oct ’14.
- NEH Interim report Nov ’13-Apr ’14.
- NEH Interim report May ’13-Oct ’13.
- NEH Interim report Nov ’12-Apr ’13.
- NEH Interim report May’12-Oct’12.
- Visual Resources Association Conference, Denver, CO March 2015 Crowdsourcing your cultural heritage collections: considerations when choosing a platformTrish Rose-Sandler.
- Curious Images conference, December 2014, The history of biodiversity through words and pictures Trish Rose-Sandler.
- International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions conference, Lyon, France, August 2014, The Art of Life: Merging the Worlds of Art and Science, part of session 149 – Science + Art=Creativity: Libraries and the New Collaborative Thinking. Accompanying paper is at http://library.ifla.org/681/.
- Visual Resources Association Conference, Milwaukee, WI, March 2014, Developing an application profile for the Art of Life: the mixing and matching of art and biodiversity data part of a session called “VRA Core 4 Unbound, Expanding Core capabilities through embedded metadata, APIs, and editors”, Trish Rose-Sandler.
- Museum Computer Network, Montreal Nov 2013, IMA Case Study Hour, Kyle Jaebker.
- TDWG conference, Florence, Italy Oct 2013, Finding a goldmine of natural history illustrations within BHL texts: the Art of Life Project, Trish Rose-Sandler.
- Missouri Library Association, St Louis, MO Oct 2013, Breathing new life into old data – How opening your collection can spark imagination and inspire creative re-use, Trish Rose-Sandler, Doug Holland.
- Digital History and Philosophy of Science meeting, Bloomington, IN Sept 2013, Revealing and Contextualizing the treasures of the Biodiversity Heritage Library: the Art of Life and Engelmann projects, Daron Dierkes, Trish Rose-Sandler.
- Museums and the Web conference, Portland, OR Apr 2013, More than just a pretty picture: improving the discoverability of illustrations in the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL), Gilbert Borrego, Grace Costantino, Bianca Crowley, Kyle Jaebker, Trish Rose-Sandler.
- Visual Resources Association conference, Providence, RI, Apr 2013 , A Case Study of The Art of Life: Data Mining and Crowdsourcing the Identification and Description of Natural History Illustrations from the Biodiversity Heritage Library, Trish Rose-Sandler.
- St Louis Regional Library Network (SLRLN) Tech Expo, St Louis MO Mar 2013, The Art of Life: Data mining and crowdsourcing the identification an description of natural history illustrations from the Biodiversity Heritage Library Trish Rose-Sandler.
- Digital Library Federation Forum, Denver CO, Nov 2012 All creatures great and small: metadata for biodiversity illustrations Trish Rose-Sandler, William Ulate, Gaurav Vaidya, Robert Guralnick.
- TDWG conference, Beijing China, Oct 2012, Poster on The Art of Life Schema: describing and providing access to natural history illustrations form the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) William Ulate, Trish Rose-Sandler, Gaurav Vaidya, Robert Guralnick.
Science Gossip on Zooniverse
- BHL blog post http://blog.biodiversitylibrary.org/2015/03/zooniverse-releases-science-gossip.html.
- Science Gossip blog http://blog.sciencegossip.org/.
- Popular Science http://www.popsci.com/citizen-science-goes-meta.
- Scientific American http://www.scientificamerican.com/citizen-science/zooniverse-science-gossip/.
- The Nature Conservancy http://blog.nature.org/science/2015/07/07/citizen-science-gossip-victorian-journals-biodiversity-naturalist-history/.
- Library Journal http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2015/07/technology/wisdom-of-the-crowd-digital-collections/.
- Pukka Plants http://www.pukkaplants.co.uk/plants/zooniverse-science-gossip/.
- University of Leicester press office https://www2.le.ac.uk/offices/press/think-leicester/science-and-environment/2015/from-citizen-science-to-citizen-humanities-2013-19th-century-history-in-the-digital-age.
- Nerd in the Brain http://nerdinthebrain.com/2015/03/06/science-fun-gossip-in-the-zooniverse/.
- Humanities Net https://networks.h-net.org/node/9782/discussions/63139/zooniverse-project-calls-public-reveal-victorian-natural-history.
- Young Thinkers Guild http://www.youngthinkersguild.com/citizen-science-project-science-gossip/.
- Outbound Adventurer http://outboundadventurer.com/the-absolute-best-citizen-science-adventures/.
- The Cheat Sheet http://www.cheatsheet.com/technology/10-fun-tech-products-you-dont-want-to-miss-this-week.html/?a=viewall.
- Prolific Oaktree http://www.prolificoaktree.com/cloud-software/27-science-gossip-overview-of-citizen-science-project-to-classify-drawings.
- The Persistent Scientist http://persistentscientist.com/category/getting-started/.
Social media comments on Science Gossip
- Elaine Ayers @eayers0 #**ScienceGossip** is one of the best #digitalhumanities sites I’ve seen! #histsci #histSTM.
- Seb Falk http://sciencegossip.org is great! Fantastic crowdsourcing idea, fascinating to help classify Victorian images of sci.
- Richard Fallon @nuovo_riccardo: Call out to all BSHS members to consider voting #ScienceGossip for the #Ayrton Prize, a highly worthy candidate!.
- Edurne @cazacocteles: Amazing citizen science proyect with #sciencegossip page: http://www.sciencegossip.org/#/.
1 million image upload to Flickr
- BHL blog on 1 million images uploaded to Flickr http://blog.biodiversitylibrary.org/2015/01/hundreds-of-thousands-of-bhl-images.html.
- Missouri Botanical Garden press release on 1 million image upload to Flickr http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/media/news-releases/article/728/missouri-botanical-garden-reaches-milestone-in-art-of-life-project.aspx.
- Video of NEH presentation to the Humanities Council (March 2014) that talks about projects NEH has supported that bring together the science and humanities. While the full 30 min video is worth a listen The Art of Life is featured around minute 14 http://www.neh.gov/films/reconnecting-the-humanities-and-sciences-through-preservation-and-access.
- NEH Press release http://www.neh.gov/files/press-release/march2012statebystatefinal.pdf.
- MISSOURI BOTANICAL GARDEN Press release
- BHL blog post
- Russ Carnahan Congratulates Botanical Garden on Prestigious Grant Award. NEH Grant Will Help to Create Massive Visual Research Tool.
- News of a major discovery in early modern natural history!
The Dutch historian of science, Florike Egmond, has discovered the
original watercolor illustrations for the woodcuts in Conrad
Gessner’s 4-vol Historia Animalium (Zurich, 1551-1587).
For her short article about how she made the discovery — more
accurately, realized she had made the discovery 20 years earlier —
and some lovely pictures, see the website, Origins of Science as a
more watercolors: Amsterdam University Library Albums iii C 22-23
For more information please contact Project Director, Trish Rose-Sandler at 314-577-9473 x6396 or trish[dot]rose-sandler[at]mobot[dot]org.