3 thoughts on “How do you solve a problem like illustrations?

  1. Great article, Ariadne! I’d be happy to provide you with any kind of insight that you need when you’re brainstorming ideas. I started @HistSciArt on twitter about 9 months ago, and in such a short time, it has quite the following, so I know that these illustrations are popular. My own interest in them is what prompted my starting HistSciArt so that I could share them easily with others. It’s an interesting topic — many of the illustrations were created to sell copies of the original books, so even in the 18th and 19th centuries, they were trying to find ways to finance their science. Of course, the original illustrations can sell for hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars in the art community through auction houses. But I digress… I’ve often wondered if there’s a way to categorize tagging efforts of pictures based on easy (taxon on plate) to hard (where you have to search text for taxons). Or perhaps levels, like tagging images with a certain set of common names — like frog, amphibian, Herpetology — just so that the image is findable for people who are not into taxonomy. I try to create a set of tags to add in addition to taxon research when I am going through an album because I know that for social media, I need more generic terms, but when a scientist asks me to find a certain species, I can locate that as well. It’s really a fun crossover!

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    • Hi Michelle,
      Thanks so much for your comment! Ah, sorry, I had forgotten to mention the @HistSciArt Twitter account! You certainly put a lot of work into sharing BHL illustrations, and I am sure many, many people appreciate what you do!
      Sorting tagging by level of human difficulty and “pool” of discoverability, for lack of a better term, sounds quite relevant for my project. I wonder if others have done similar studies; definitely something to look into while I am developing suggestions for data production and access within the BHL portal! The thought you have already put into these topics will be quite valuable. I’m compiling a list of questions for you, and hope to touch base soon!
      Ariadne

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  2. Due to some technical difficulties, Siobhan Leachman emailed me some comments, so I’d like to share a summary of what she said and my responses here. She pinpointed some questions and areas of interest that I hope to pursue:

    She wondered whether Jim Miller’s comments about the limited cases in which systematic botanists refer to historic illustrations are applicable to all botanists or all natural history disciplines. How they fit into the research cycle among other disciplines (such as entomology and large mammal science) is certainly an important remaining question; I am determining the best way to investigate this!

    Siobhan also emphasized the current humanities-focused research occurring through crowdsourcing BHL illustrations and the potential for science-focused research (such as analyzing occurrence of illustrated species vs. unillustrated species within a certain text.) I am hoping to provide suggestions for making the data surrounding illustrated publications as available as possible (for download, through the BHL portal, and perhaps through other means) to support our audiences, pending the views of the people who created it, the views of those who might use it, and perhaps Google analytics. I would also like to support the existing research communities, as well as the growth of BHL in the area of crowdsourcing based on lessons from these groups.

    Siobhan shared a talk she gave on her motivations for working on BHL Flickr tagging and Science Gossip as well as other citizen science work (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wNc35-U1TzA). She also co-wrote an article with other volunpeers at the Smithsonian Transcription Centre, “We learn together: Crowdsourcing as Practice and Method in the Smithsonian Transcription Center”. Collections: A journal for Museum and Archives Professionals. Vol. 12 No. 2 Spring 2016. I am very excited to take a look!

    Thank you again for your very helpful comments, Siobhan!

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