BHL Australia: unlocking the foundation of Australia’s botanical knowledge

ID: 613 / 457

Category: Abstract

Track: Pending

Proposed Symposium Title: BHL Australia: unlocking the foundation of Australia’s botanical knowledge


Nicole Kearney

Affiliations: Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) Australia


The Australian node of the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) began operation in 2010 with just one organisation, Museums Victoria. Since then, it has grown considerably. BHL Australia is now a national consortium with over 50 organisations contributing content to BHL. These organisations include all of Australia’s state museums and herbaria, as well as universities, government agencies, royal societies, field naturalist clubs and natural history publishers. Together these organisations have made over 550,000 pages of Australia’s biodiversity heritage freely accessible online.

This paper will focus on the botanic knowledge contained within the BHL Australia collection, showcasing highlights from the 1600s through to the current year. It will also celebrate the close relationship between BHL and the Australian botanical community. BHL Australia’s active digitisation operation prioritises requests, which are received regularly from researchers, librarians, artists, educators, and policy makers. These have resulted in the rapid digitisation of historic literature essential to botanists, such as those studying the impact of Australia’s devastating 2020 bushfires on endangered species.

Finally, this paper will present BHL Australia’s leading role in BHL’s global efforts to bring the historic literature into the modern linked network of scholarly research. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, BHL Australia pivoted from digitising historic literature to generating historic article data, mobilising both volunteers and staff to make the contents of our historic journals searchable. Since then, we’ve worked closely with the publishers of botanical journals (in Australia and around the world) to assign DOIs (Digital Object Identifiers) to their back issues. Many have elected to have BHL assign DOIs to their current issues as well. These DOIs are now appearing seamlessly in new publications, taxonomic databases, social media, and Wikipedia, providing instant, permanent, and persistent open access to the primary literature, the foundation of our knowledge of biodiversity.

Symposia selection: 184, ,

Key words: digitisation, discoverability, herbaria, historic literature, open access, publishing