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Grant Will Fund Web Access To Rare Botanical Literature & Images

26 April 2005
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The W.M. Keck Foundation has awarded the Missouri Botanical Garden an $815,160 grant to develop a Web-based encyclopedia that will allow rapid, universal access to information and digital images of rare and important 18th and 19th century botanical literature.

The project will profoundly alter and accelerate the research process and dramatically advance plant conservation by developing connections between important historic botanical literature and existing databases such as TROPICOS, said Dr. Robert Magill, director of research at the Garden and the project planner.

TROPICOS, the world's largest botanical database, is developed and maintained by the Garden and accessible on its Web site,

TROPICOS currently lists 972,890 plant names and information on 2,510,694 specimens.

The reference system will allow users to search by clicking on images and highlighted key words in the database. Researchers working online throughout the world or those without access to certain materials will be able to leaf through entire books and examine articles with the click of a mouse. Scientists will be able to conduct research faster and retrieve more information than ever before, allowing them to focus on the more intellectual and creative aspects of botany.

The encyclopedia will make available botanical images and complete sets of botanical journals. Images will be visually acceptable for study and of good quality.

Chris Freeland, Web development and project team supervisor, will develop the project's image system, Web presence, project linkages and program interfaces. Research librarian Doug Holland will supervise the imaging teams to assure proper care and handling of the rare and brittle 18th and 19th century materials.

Expected to be operational within three years, the online encyclopedia will be available to scientists, museums and the general public.

Based in Los Angeles, the W. M. Keck Foundation was established in 1954 by the late W. M. Keck, founder of the Superior Oil Company. The Foundation's grant making is focused primarily on pioneering efforts in the areas of medical research, science and engineering. The Foundation also maintains a program to support undergraduate science and humanities education and a Southern California Grant Program that provides support in the areas of health care, civic and community services, education and the arts, with a special emphasis on children.

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