May 26, 2022

Science Reference: New York Botanical Garden Digitizes Biodiversity History

From Popular Science:

There’s a trove of biodiversity information out there, but much of it is locked in natural history collections. To make all this plant data more accessible, the New York Botanical Garden—one of the four largest herbariums in the word—is turning its more than 7.3 million specimens into a browsable digital database.


The digitizing project began in the mid 1990s, and since then, the technique has been refined, and as a result sped up significantly. In the beginning, large studio set ups with big lights and a camera helped capture the specimen images. Now, NYBG uses a light box that was originally designed for photographing jewelry. The box has even, standardized lighting, and feeds the image data directly to a computer. When the team began this project more than 10 years ago, they were digitizing about 20,000 to 30,000 specimens per year. With upgraded technology and increased man power, they can capture more than 100,000 per year. This fall, the team digitized their two-millionth specimen.

Search the Database

Read the Complete Popular Science Article

See Also: Missouri Botanical Garden to Help Build Online Global Plant Database (April 23, 2012)

See Also: Plant List 

See Also: Biodiversity Heritage Library

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.