IIIF Herbaria Mundi

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As mentioned above, one of the key things that botanists do is to compare herbarium specimens within and between herbaria. From the researchers perspective it would be ideal if all the specimens existed in a single herbarium, the one they were in. IIIF should allow this to happen, at least virtually, and Herbaria Mundi (World Herbarium) was set up as a demonstration of what such a system might look like.


Search page within Herbaria Mundi
Popup window in Herbaria Mundi pulling zoom data from the specimen’s institution.

The system consists of an Apache Solr index of six hundred thousand specimens from RBGE and BGBM as well as a few stored in Zenodo. The index was built by polling the CETAF IDs for each specimen, indexing the associated specimen data and generating a thumbnail image from the IIIF end point for the specimen. Only specimens with associated IIIF Manifests were included in the index.

Users can log into the system using their ORCID IDs. They can then search and browse the specimens as if this were a catalogue of a single herbarium (Figure 13). Tools allow the specimens to be tagged and determined to species according to the current World Flora Online taxonomy and to compare sets of specimens side by side. The higher resolution images for zoom are all called live from the host institutions.

An issue that researchers face using such a system is incorporating specimens that are not available through CETAF IDs and IIIF. This may be because the specimens were only collected for identification purposes and will never enter a herbarium or have not been digitised yet. A demonstration was created where specimen images can be uploaded to the Zenodo repository and then presented through a caching server to Herbaria Mundi.

Future development

By the end of Task 4.3 Herbaria Mundi was acting as a good demonstration of how a single global herbarium might work (it was presented at TDWG 2020 conference) but it wasn’t a complete production system. Going forward a number of design changes are required. At the start of the project IIIF Manifest URIs were not being indexed by GBIF but they are now. There is therefore no longer a need for Herbaria Mundi to build its own index, a task that is very resource intensive. It should be able to interact with the GBIF API to find specimens with associated IIIF Manifests. The Mirador viewer version 3 is now stable and the annotation plugin is being actively developed by the wider community. More features could be made available more quickly by switching to this viewer. It is planned to continue developing Herbaria Mundi along these lines.

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