Missouri Botanical Garden Open Conference Systems, TDWG 2016 ANNUAL CONFERENCE

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Browsing natural history collections
Wouter Addink

Last modified: 2016-09-09


The collection of Naturalis Biodiversity Center

The collection at Naturalis is one of the largest in the world. As well as their numbers, the quality of the objects is excellent, and together they are of immeasurable scientific value. Naturalis has undertaken a unique digitisation project, according to which all 37 million objects have been recorded on digital cards, 9 million of them to a high level of detail. To give access to the collection Naturalis developed the Netherlands Biodiversity API (Application programming interface) and the Bioportal.

The Netherlands Biodiversity API (NBA)

The Netherlands Biodiversity API (Application programming interface) is a state-of-the-art data service for scientists, application developers, national and regional government bodies and anyone else interested in biodiversity and biodiversity-related data. The provision of biodiversity-related data by the Naturalis Biodiversity Center is the starting point for this service. By granting free and open access to Naturalis' extensive catalogues, historical and recent data relating to a variety of species are made available, including specimen, multimedia and taxon data. Currently users of the NBA can retrieve data and multimedia from the two main digital collection management systems of Naturalis, the Naturalis Media Library and a range of taxonomic resources, most notably the Dutch Species Register and the Catalogue of Life, both hosted by Naturalis. The API services offered by the NBA are simple to use, making it relatively easy for scientists and app developers to build applications that use Naturalis data. At the same time the high performance level and multiple functionalities of the NBA, which is based on the powerful ElasticSearch open source search engine, allow for complex and complete results. All technical and functional information pertaining to the NBA has been made available through GitHub (https://github.com/naturalis).


The Naturalis Bioportal (https://science.naturalis.nl/en/collection/digitization/bioportal/) serves as the national access portal for all information relating to natural history, from basic data about museum objects right through to fully illustrated species descriptions. Via a single website, Bioportal grants access to all digitised details about the Naturalis collections, using the Netherlands Biodiversity API. Since July 2015, all objects digitized within Naturalis are available through the Bioportal. This information will continue to be further extended with all the data linked together in the NBA. Bioportal is effectively a ‘client’ of the NBA, an example application that delivers data from the NBA in an appealing manner, via a web portal.