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MISSOURI BOTANICAL GARDEN ANNOUNCES GRANT AWARD
Project Aims to Improve Access to Digital Texts through Online Gaming
(ST. LOUIS): The Missouri Botanical Garden was recently awarded a $449,641 grant by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to test new means of using crowd sourcing and gaming to support the enhancement of texts from the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL). Grant funding begins in December 2013 and ends in December 2015. The Garden will partner with Harvard University, Cornell University and the New York Botanical Garden on the project.
The BHL is an international consortium of the leading natural history libraries that have collaborated to digitize records of the world’s biological diversity. It is the single largest open-licensed source of biodiversity literature in the world with more than 40 million pages of scanned texts available online at www.biodiversitylibrary.org.
Digital libraries such as the BHL are hampered by poor output from Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software that makes it difficult for users to easily search texts. The BHL contains a variety of literature including books and journals dating back to the 1400s. Historic literature is particularly problematic for OCR software because of the variation in fonts, typesetting and layouts. There is currently no OCR engine to accurately recognize most types from the 15th to mid-19th centuries included in the collection. BHL’s horticultural catalogs and field notebooks also present challenges to OCR software because of their multi-columned layouts and use of handwritten notes. Garden staffers saw a pressing need to identify possible solutions for this problem.
The project, “Purposeful Gaming and BHL” will demonstrate whether or not online games are a successful tool for analyzing and improving digital outputs. Users will be presented words that are difficult for software to recognize as tasks in a game.
“Digital gaming as entertainment has been around for several decades but only recently has it been used for more practical purposes,” said Trish Rose-Sandler, data project coordinator in the Center for Biodiversity Informatics at the Missouri Botanical Garden and data analyst for the Biodiversity Heritage Library. “Combined with crowdsourcing, it can be a very efficient way to harness large numbers of users to complete a task.”
Benefits from the project include both improved access to content in the largest open-access repository in biodiversity, the Biodiversity Heritage Library, and the demonstration of novel and more cost-effective approaches to generating searchable texts within the broader digital library community.
Teams from all four institutions will work with a professional software developer to design the gaming application needed for the project. Rose-Sandler will be responsible for the overall coordination of the project. Learn more about project details at http://biodivlib.wikispaces.com/Purposeful+Gaming.
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NOTE: Digital images available by request or via Flickr. Download media materials at www.mobot.org/media.
The Missouri Botanical Garden’s mission is “to discover and share knowledge about plants and their environment in order to preserve and enrich life.” Today, 154 years after opening, the Missouri Botanical Garden is a National Historic Landmark and a center for science, conservation, education and horticultural display.
The Missouri Botanical Garden is located at 4344 Shaw Blvd. in St. Louis, just south of I-44 at Vandeventer-Kingshighway (exit #287B). Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Closed Christmas Day. Grounds open at 7 a.m. most Wednesdays and Saturdays (exception: special admission rate events). Admission is $8; free children ages 12 and under and Garden members. St. Louis City and County residents are $4 and free most Wednesdays and Saturdays until noon (exception: special admission rate events – third weekend of May, Memorial Day 2012, Labor Day weekend and first weekend of October). Park for free on site and two blocks west at the Shaw-Vandeventer intersection. The Garden is accessible via public transportation by taking the MetroLink commuter rail line and picking up a Metro bus (www.metrostlouis.org). For general information, log on to www.mobot.org or call the 24-hour recording at (314) 577-5100 or 1-800-642-8842. For membership information, visit www.mobot.org/membership call (314) 577-5118 during weekday business hours. For volunteer opportunities, visit www.mobot.org/volunteer or call (314) 577-5187. The Missouri Botanical Garden is a tobacco-free environment.
About the Institute of Museum and Library Services
“The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. Our mission is to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement. Our grant making, policy development, and research help libraries and museums deliver valuable services that make it possible for communities and individuals to thrive. To learn more, visit www.imls.gov and follow IMLS on Facebook and Twitter.