Site purposeA Google Drive website, created by French researchers, has morphed into a huge online digital library with more than 55,800 free digitized documents comprising more than 38.5 million pages. The World Archive of Sciences link was posted to the Biodiversity Professionals Discussion page by member Christophe Avon, President of the Musée Associatif d’Histoire Naturelle. The screenshot on the left is from the WAS Pinterest page, which gives you an idea of the topics covered.
Use of site content
All of the content is available under a Creative Commons License, so you can freely use it for non-commercial purposes provided attribution is given.
Site usabilityIt’s an amazing resource, but it’s not immediately intuitive how to use it. Basically, you can drill down through topic areas to explore tens of thousands of scientific documents. It is especially rich in journals, books and documents. Most of these are related to natural history and the descriptive biological sciences. It will be most useful for those interested in the historical development of a particular field. Most material is in the public domain, and hence dates to more than several decades ago. Biodiversity researchers will appreciate the wealth of historic material. The plates of early explorers (such as Henry Walter Bates’ splendid treatment of coleoptera) provide a visual feast.
How to use the site
Here’s how to navigate the site:
- The base URL (http://www.was-archives.org) redirects to the Google Drive page. From here you have several options.
- Click on the icons (roll over for text descriptions). The two of most interest (to me) are Books and Plates. Click on these for alphabetical lists of the available books and images in the archive. The Books section includes journals, articles and monographs as well as numerous volumes.
- Alternatively, you can use the search field below the icons, as with any other website.
- Click the Add to Drive button on any of the document pages to include it in your Google Drive folder for easy access.
Site issues and problems
There are some oddities and annoyances. For example, when you look for Darwin’s Origin of Species, it is buried in the third page of search engine results under the category of “Darwin’s books”. Also when you use the search function, you have to put up with a Google Ad. Sometimes the link goes to the museum blog and then back to the archive, which is a tad confusing.
Conclusions for biodiversity researchers
Overall, I found this website quite easy to use and chock full of biodiversity-related resources. The document reading interface is more user-friendly than the Biodiversity Heritage Library (although the latter’s search function is better). But there is so much here that it should prove an invaluable resource for researchers with the time and patience to explore the vast quantity of information.
Have fun exploring!
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