About us

Biodiversity Heritage Library for Europe

The libraries of the world, particularly those associated with natural history museums and botanical gardens collectively hold the majority of the world’s Publisher knowledge on the discovery and subsequent description of biological diversity. As yet this wealth of knowledge is only currently available to those few people who can gain direct access to these publications. The body of biodiversity knowledge is thus effectively withheld from use for a wide range of scientific applications, which includes research, education, taxonomic study, biodiversity conservation, protected area management, disease control and maintenance of diverse ecosystem services. Much of the early published literature is rare or has limited global distribution and is available in only very few libraries.

The project Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL), launched 2007 in the USA, is systematically attempting to address this problem. In May 2009 the ambitious and innovative EU project ‘Biodiversity Heritage Library for Europe’ (BHL-Europe) was launched. BHL-Europe is coordinated by the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin, Germany, and combines the efforts of 26 European and 2 American institutions. The BHL-Europe consortium consists of important European natural history museums, botanical gardens, libraries, universities, biodiversity initiatives and IT companies. The project is financed within the framework of the European programme eContentplus for 36 months. 


The project brings together existing digital collections of biodiversity literature from all over Europe. It will provide access by a multilingual web portal with innovative search functionalities facilitating quick access to all information required by users. The interface of the portal will be multilingual enabling users to search in their native language. In addition to the biodiversity community portal, all literature will be accessible through the European Digital Library - EUROPEANA. For the first time, the wider public, citizen scientists and decision makers will have unlimited access to this important source of information. Everybody will be able to get first-hand information on animals and plants, study rare, original work by important scientists such as Charles Darwin or Alexander von Humboldt, and admire artwork in publications from the 17th or 18th century. Conservation organisations will have a tool for collecting data on rare or threatened species in order to produce better plans for protection strategies. The main focus of the project is not research and development. As a best practice network, the interoperability of existing repositories and the implementation of existing technological solutions for search and retrieval and long-term sustainability of digitised objects are the main goals of the project. BHL-Europe is not focused itself on digitising, this is within the competence of each member of the EU. However, the project can serve as a support for the implementation of digitising programmes. We hope that within the framework of BHL-Europe, we can improve the current situation with regard to the financing of digitisation in the EU.

Project structure

WP 1 - Project Coordination and management

Administrative objective: Ensure adherence of the consortium to the rules, regulations, and financial guidelines of the eContentplus programme; establish the project in the European biodiversity community.

Technical objective: Implement the project as set out in the work plan; ensure exchange of information and communication between partners; ensure progress of the project; guarantee timely deliverables.

QA objective: Ensure verifiable progress of the project and be committed to high quality output that has tangible impact on eContentplus programme objectives.

WP 2 - Analysis of domain content and management of the content acquisition process

Objectives: Establish bibliographic database systems, metadata repositories and Web-based content management systems.Ensure that all relevant biodiversity literature is listed to be scanned following a priority list; ensure that all content providers agree on the technical architecture of the project; ensure effective scanning in all content providing institutions; ensure linkage to EUROPEANA; ensure extension of the content providing network.

WP 3 - Technological implementation

Objectives: Management and coordination of technological development and associated standards to allow for a pan-European, distributed and multilingual BHL-Europe. The technological implementation will concentrate on the innovative application of proven technologies to deliver stable and sustainable solutions.

WP 4 - Intellectual Property Rights

Objectives: Management and coordination of the intellectual property rights (IPR) framework for BHL-Europe and agreements with Rights Holders. Ensure that BHL-Europe, EUROPEANA, and the BHL are using common approaches and common agreements, such that data can be exchanged between these partners without further Rights activity.

N.B. The majority of the material being digitised by partners is public domain, and where the Rights have expired. This material will remain public domain and be freely available to all users.

WP 5 - Dissemination, Exploitation and Evaluation

Dissemination objective: Develop dissemination strategy; raise awareness, understanding and action of the project among the community and stakeholders in EU member states; ensure effective dissemination of project goals and results to the target users; ensure good communication within the European scientific community.

Presentation and demonstration objective: Ensure dissemination of project results at conferences, public events and among the networks of the consortium members.

Exploitation objective: Ensure implementation of project results in other projects, initiatives, institutions, and countries.

Evaluation objective: Monitor the level of use of BHL-Europe; survey the users of the Web Portal.