Data Management at a Botanic Garden

The 385-acres of the Chicago Botanic Garden (CBG) could not be maintained without the work of dedicated staff, hundreds of volunteers, and careful data management. During my residency at CBG, my mentor, Leora Siegel, arranged an introductory meeting with the head of the Living Plant Documentation, Boyce Tankersley, to help me understand how the management of over 2.6 million plants is possible.

One of the few botanic gardens with AAM (American Alliance of Museums) accreditation, the Chicago Botanic Garden maintains records much like museums do, however, the collection items at CBG happen to be living (and thus can die, move, create new items, etc.). Each plant that enters the collection is given an accession number and deemed to be a member of the permanent collection or given “seasonal” status as a part of a temporary collection (like the orchids that were on view in the orchid show that closed at the end of March). This data is all managed through an internal database.

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Defining the Scope of Biodiversity Literature

One of the first steps of performing a collection analysis is to define the scope of the collection. While I am focused on analyzing the corpus of BHL for my project, this collection only represents a subset of all biodiversity literature. After defining the scope of biodiversity literature, we can start to understand the coverage of the BHL collection and identify its gaps to target future digitization.

The term “biodiversity” is a contraction of “biological diversity,” first used in 1986 during the planning meeting for National Forum on BioDiversity.1 Simply put, biodiversity is “the variability among living organisms from all sources including, inter alia, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems.”2 All living life and their environments–quite a large scope.

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