Capturing the history of the regional field naturalist clubs of Victoria

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Partner Project Update from the Biodiversity Heritage Library
, Jack Eastaugh.

I'm Jack Eastaugh, Digitisation and Technical Support Officer for the Australian branch of the Biodiversity Heritage Library, hosted by Museums Victoria in Melbourne. Working alongside Nicole Kearney, the Manager of the BHL Australia project, we, and the rest of the BHL Au team, digitise Australia’s biodiversity heritage literature and make it freely accessible online.

Jack Eastaugh, Digitisation and Technical Support Officer for the Australian branch of the Biodiversity Heritage Library, scanning documents.

In 2023, BHL Australia received a Public Record Office Victoria (PROV) Local History Grant to digitise the legacy publications of Victoria's field naturalist clubs and create an online collection on the BHL website. The aim of which was to share the invaluable contribution these community organisations have made to Victoria's ecological and social heritage, creating a valuable resource for researchers, historians, and enthusiasts interested in the flora, fauna, and history of Victoria's diverse regions.

As we began this initial project, we noticed that these field naturalist clubs had little or no presence on Wikipedia and Wikidata, despite the notability of their natural history and conservation work.

It is from this realisation, that BHL Au approached Wikimedia Australia with a Wikimedia Australia Partner Grant proposal to fund the creation of Wikipedia pages and Wikidata records for these field naturalists clubs, as well as for their publications and notable people, places and events across time. The grant would also fund the sourcing of archival images and the upload of these into Wikimedia Commons.

A collection of legacy print publications of Victoria's field naturalist clubs ready to be digitised

Our project has several aims in mind:

  • Create and expand Wikipedia pages for notable Victorian field naturalist clubs that we have engaged with, drawing from online and print resources, as well as the published material we are digitising and adding to the BHL.
  • Create and enhance Wikidata records for the clubs and significant members.
  • Engage with the clubs by travelling to their regional communities to gain access to their archives, published resources and the local community to expand public knowledge of the rich history of the organisations themselves, highlighting the dedication and passion of the people behind them.
  • Assist copyright holders of historic and modern photographs of field naturalist club events and logos in submitting their media for Creative Commons licensing and uploading it to Wikimedia Commons.
  • Continue to expand Wikipedia pages and Wikidata records for notable clubs and individual field naturalists, by linking their contributions to scientific knowledge and conservation efforts to the native flora, fauna and national parks they have studied and protected.

Victoria’s field naturalist clubs have enthusiastically responded to our project, with many offering assistance in finding resources. We have begun to visit the regional field naturalist clubs, presenting the work we do at BHL Au, our field naturalist clubs project and the potential for a Wikipedia page and Wikidata record for the club.

Print publications published by Victoria's field naturalist clubs to record the ecological and social heritage of the flora, fauna, and history of Victoria's diverse regions.

Thus far, we have created Wikipedia pages and Wikidata records for all of the clubs who have been engaged for the project, which includes:

We have also edited and expanded twelve related pages using resources we have found during our research. We will continue to expand these pages as we digitise and upload publications to the BHL and uncover additional resources.

Please have a look at our work on the regional Field Naturalists Clubs of Victoria, Australia project page.

BHL Australia is hosted by Museums Victoria and receives its core operational funding from the Atlas of Living Australia. The Victorian Field Naturalist Project is funded by the Public Record Office Victoria and Wikimedia Australia.

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