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Visit to the Museum of Zoology, University of São Paulo

Museum of Zoology,  University of  São Paulo

On February 11, I had the opportunity to visit the Museum of Zoology, part of the University of  São Paulo. The museum has a collection of over eight million specimens and a fine library. The library of the museum will be an important part of Brazil's collaboration in the Biodiversity Heritage Library.

After arriving, I was given a tour of the museum which helped to set the context for the library collection. Currently, the major temporary exhibition is on Charles Darwin. As part of the exhibition, the museum has pulled numerous examples of the types of species Darwin collected and ingeniously displayed them in cases that emulate the look and feel of type types of packing cases Darwin would have used on the voyage of The Beagle. Also included in the exhibition were editions of Darwin's works and publications related to Darwin from the library's collections.

Moving behind the scenes, I was given a tour of the entomology collection (one of the museum's strengths) and talked briefly with museum entomologist Carlos Brandão. Some of the finer examples from the coleoptera collection were brought out for me to see.

Returning to the library, I spoke with the public services staff who use the BHL on a regular basis. The major improvement they would like to see is a Portuguese language interface to the content. We then toured some of the stack area. Environmental control is a problem and the stacks were  quite warm. The staff pointed out their collection of Smithsonian Contributions to Zoology (which were right up to date thanks to our exchange agreement with the museum).

Moving on to their special collections (located on another floor), some highlights of the collection were shown to me, including Fauna Brasiliensis (1823). The collection is well cared for, however, many of the volumes pulled did, as at the Goeldi Museum library, suffer from foxing and other environmental damage.

Moving on to the technical services area of the library, I was introduced to staff who work with the museum's publications as well as maintaining a bibliography of museum publications (not yet online). One member of the processing team, is working on the Vanzolini collection of rare materials in herpetology. These materials were donated by Professor Paulo Emilio Vanzolini. All items are being searched in BHL and when a digital version is available, a PDF is downloaded for local storage or distribution to users on CDROM. Ninety-eight of the 120 titles are available in BHL.

The library staff are enthusiastic about their collection and looking forward to collaboration on the BHL project in Brazil. As with librarians everywhere, they have concerns about the care and safety of the collections during the digitization process, but also recognize the importance of providing access. They are also eager to make the unique items in their collections available to a wider, global audience.

I would like to thank Dione Seripierri, Adriana Nascimento Flamino, Teresa Beatriz Nunes Guimarães, and Andréia da Cruz Nascimento (who assisted with translation) and the rest of the staff for organizing an excellent tour of the museum and library. This information will help us all greatly as we move forward with collaboration on BHL.

– Martin R. Kalfatovic

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