Stories from the Barn

A hive of activity in the Hampshire downlands

The Biodiversity Heritage Library

Butterflies from BHL

Discovering the Biodiversity Heritage Library.

The amazing Biodiversity Heritage Library is one of the most astonishing resources for those with an interest in biodiversity. It is an open access digital library for biodiversity literature and archives and operates globally for the benefit of all. It is a consortium of natural history, botanical, and research libraries who cooperate to digitize and make their collections accessible as a part of a global “biodiversity commons.

Anyone can access this treasure trove of information and images and in this time of pandemic, what a resource to share. When access to libraries and museums has been limited, a digital open access source is a treasure.

Fern image from BHL

This is such an enormous gift of learning.

The number of resources available from the library is immense. Free and open online access to over 250,000 volumes from the C15th-C21st. There are a wide range of biodiversity subjects available. You do not need to login or create an account to gain access and you can download anything in the library in a variety of formats.

Butterflies BHL

Artists and those interested relating art and science can use images from the library.

Artists keen to produce work that combines their creative skills with science to help us all connect and gain a better understanding of our planet can use the library. It brings to mind the work of Tomas Saraceno and spiders webs. Tomas has used art, science and architecture to connect us with the web. On the Biodiversity Heritage Library blog, the work of American artist Clare Börsch is highlighted. Clare is an installation artist who has used images sourced mainly from open access collections like the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL), to create a stunning piece of work. She has used images of birds, insects and plants to produce a three-dimensional ecosystem. This piece of work is a valuable reminder of the loss of biodiversity.

Many of the images cut out come from books and journals from the early C19th. As such they will contain species of plants and animals now extinct. The field observers, scientists, artists, explorers etc who observed and recorded these species have left a beautiful and unique record.

British Heritage Library image