The Washington Post
Massive, open-access digital library provides nearly every type of information about nature
Flowers. Climate change. Animals. Ecosystems. If you’re a nature lover, you probably have burning questions — and niche interests — about many aspects of life on our vast planet.
But you don’t have to go to the ends of the Earth to learn more. With the Biodiversity Heritage Library, you don’t even have to leave your computer.
The massive, open-access digital library offers users hundreds of thousands of books, archival holdings, images and more — about 60 million pages in all. Best of all, it’s free.
It’s the work of a large consortium of institutions from around the world, from the American Museum of Natural History to a native orchid society in Australia.
In 2003, a group of 10 American and British organizations launched the project to address a dearth of the kind of resources that make scientific research possible: statistics, species information, maps and other documentation of life on Earth.
To confront the swiftly moving crises of climate change and species extinction, library officials write, “researchers need something that no single library can provide — access to the world’s collective knowledge about biodiversity.”
Instead of keeping precious resources locked in libraries few can access, the online library makes them easy to find and free to use. Since 2003, it has gained steam globally, and it is now the largest library of its kind.
Filled with treasures that span from the 15th century onward, the library’s holdings range from scans of Charles Darwin’s correspondence to the catalogues of nursery companies.
You can use its scientific-name tools to find mentions of scientific names across hundreds of thousands of materials. And its Flickr collection contains more than 300,000 free illustrations of all kinds of animals and plants.
The library offers a dizzying glance at the complex beauty of nature far and near.
Ready to explore? Check out biodiversitylibrary.org to access the library, search its most recent additions or learn more on its blog and social media streams.