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The Art of Life Schema: describing and providing access to natural history illustrations from the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL)
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The Art of Life Schema: describing and providing access to natural history illustrations from the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL)

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Natural history illustrations from the Biodiversity Heritage Library seem to span the domains of history, science and art. As historic documents, some of them paint a vibrant picture of important …

Natural history illustrations from the Biodiversity Heritage Library seem to span the domains of history, science and art. As historic documents, some of them paint a vibrant picture of important events like the first time European scientists and explorers encountered exotic plants and animals in the 17th and 18th centuries, drawn by some of the finest illustrators of their time. Also, as biodiversity records, they can provide valuable documentation of when, where, and sometimes who first observed a species, and some of them are even our only surviving representation of extinct species. Finally, as aesthetic elements, some illustrations reflect human emotions and other values toward nature in their composition, providing a vivid expression of human creativity and imagination. This year, the Missouri Botanical Garden received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to support a project called The Art of Life: Data Mining and Crowdsourcing the Identification and Description of Natural History Illustrations from the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL). Initially, software tools will help discover visual resources (illustrations, maps, and other works of art) in the BHL, and basic metadata will be recorded. These resources will then be shared on multiple image delivery systems, including Flickr and the Wikimedia Commons, where citizen scientists will be able to add further annotations. Because of the wide diversity of information that a citizen scientist may add to any image, a comprehensive yet manageable schema is needed to help standardize inputs and enable synchronization and seamless import back into the BHL databases. Rather than developing yet another schema from scratch, the authors have identified existing schemas that meet the needs of the project and provided an integrated solution that combines the best in biodiversity informatics and image curation standards with best practices. This schema needs to support three main objectives: (1) to enable the discovery, description and use of the identified images by artists, biologists, humanities scholars, and educators; (2) to make BHL’s metadata and images available to other online image repositories; and (3) to import crowdsourced metadata generated in some of such repositories back into BHL. In order to obtain feedback for the final version, a preliminary schema will be presented to the TDWG community, explaining how we addressed metadata challenges specific to biodiversity data.

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  • 1. The Art of Life schema: describing and providing access to natural historyillustrations from the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) by William Ulate, Trish Rose-Sandler, Gaurav Vaidya, Robert Guralnick Example of illustration described using Art of Life schema Title Stictospiza formosa Type Illustrations Date Publication: 1898 Agent Author: Arthur G. Butler (1844-1925) Illustrator: F.W. Frohawk (1861-1946) Description A pair of finches with green and yellow bodies resting on reeds Subjects Scientific name: Amandava formosa (Latham, 1790) Vernacular Name: Green Avadavat or Green Munia Accepted Name: Amandava formosa (Latham, 1790) Birds, finches Inscriptions bottom center: Green Amaduvade Waxbill (Stictospiza formosa) Source Butler, Arthur Gardiner. Foreign finches in captivity. Hull and London: Brumby and Clarke, limited,1889 (2nd edition). This image comes from the Biodiversity Heritage Library, and is available online at biodiversitylibrary.org/page/17195895 Rights Public domain Art of Life schema elements required in Red Element Definition Examples Repeat Agents person or corporate entity involved in the creation, <vra:agent> Y design, production, or publication of a visual <vra:name type="personal" vocab="LCNAF" refid="89015596> Curtis,John</vra:name> resource. <vra:dates type="life"> <vra:earliestDate>1791</vra:earliestDate> <vra:latestDate>1862</vra:latestDate> </vra:dates> <vra:role vocab="AAT" refid="300025574">publisher</vra:role> </vra:agent> Copyright The copyright status of the visual resource. <vra:rights refid=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/deed.en”>Creative N Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0) </vra:rights> Date Date or range of dates associated with the <vra:date type="creation"> Y creation or publication of the visual resource. <vra:earliestDate>1945</vra:earliestDate> <vra:latestDate>1955</vra:latestDate> </vra:date> Description A free-text note about content of the image, <vra:description>This illustration shows a scale, coloured illustration of Sepsis Y including comments, description, or annulipes (now known as Encita annulipes) beside the Trifolium ochroleucum plant. interpretation, that gives additional information Several dissections from Sepsis cylindrica Fab. (all these details are provided on the not recorded in other categories. next page of this book and the subsequent page).</vra:description> Inscriptions All marks, caption, or written words added to the <vra:inscription> Y object at the time of production or in its <vra:position>bottom</vra:position> subsequent history, including signatures, dates, <vra:text>Radula of L. souleyetianum on a more reduced scale</vra:text> dedications, texts, and colophons, as well as </vra:inscription> marks, such as the stamps of silversmiths, publishers, or printers. Source A citation for the book, journal or resource that <vra:source><vra:name type=”book”>Butler, Arthur Gardiner. Foreign finches in N hosts the visual resource captivity. HullBrumby and Clarke, limited,1889 (2nd edition). </vra:name> <vra:refid type=”URI”>http://biodiversitylibrary.org/page/17195895</vra:refid> </vra:source> Subject Terms or phrases that describe, identify, or <vra:subject><vra:term type=”personalName”>Carl Y interpret the visual resource. Linnaeus</vra:term></vra:subject> <dwc:scientificName>Plant: Picea abies</dwc:scientificName> <dwc:acceptedName>Plant: Picea abies</dwc:acceptedName> <dwc:vernacularName>Plant: Norway spruce<dwc:vernacularName> Title The title or identifying phrase given to an Image <vra:title xml:lang=”la”>Sepsis annulipes</vra:title> Y <vra:title type=“alternate”>Orangutan</vra:title> Type Identifies a general category for the visual <vra:type>maps</vra:type> Y resource <vra:type>forestry maps</vra:type> We welcome your feedback on the schema! http://tinyurl.com/9hm7nsb

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