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Lyell Collection – open to the world

Geoscientist Online 18 May 2007

The Bicentenary bookcase in the Lyell Room. The insets are of Burlington Slate, Borrowdale Volcanic Series (Ordovician) from quarries owned by the Cavendish family, former owners of Burlington House

Lyell Collection – open to the world

Wednesday 16 May saw the simultaneous opening of the Lyell Room, Burlington House, and the Lyell Collection and Lyell Centre within the Society's new website. Dawne Riddle reports.

"It is no exaggeration to place the origin of much of the wealth of nations on the science and application of geology in the energy and mineral industries." So said Dr Tony Hayward, CEO of BP International, at the opening of the Lyell Room at Burlington House, underlining the vital importance of geological information to the world's economy and people's well-being.

Hayward was responding to Dr Richard Fortey FRS at a ceremony relayed by CCTV to over 100 invited guests, waiting patiently in the Lecture Theatre below. For the benefit of the assembled, Fortey clarified the evening's multiple inaugurations:

"The Lyell Room is a working environment in which readers will be able to access our new virtual library, which we are calling the Lyell Centre; though those readers will not be alone in this, because the Centre is a learning resource available to everyone, anywhere in the world, from their own terminals, via the World Wide Web."

"The Lyell Centre is an integral part of the Society's new website, which we are also launching tonight. Visitors to our site will now be able to access all the Society's major published work, books and journals, right back to our foundation: a collection featuring the full content of all our wholly owned journals, Special Publications and key book series. This we are calling the Lyell Collection. The Collection also allows much more penetrating searches of our library holdings – whose index is now completely online – even to the extent of having a geographic information system – an interface that allows readers to search the catalogue maps by geographical co-ordinates."

"Creating this powerful new resource has been made possible by the generosity of our Foundation sponsors BP and Shell – and, later in the year, the Lyell Collection will be made available free of charge to the Earth science community in less developed countries thanks to the support of Schlumberger. "

Shell was represented by Mr Malcolm Brinded, while Schlumberger, whose assistance was also acknowledged, was represented by Mr Henry Edmundson. The Ceremony ended with a toast to the memory of Charles Lyell.

"Few if any names from our heroic age cast a longer shadow than Charles Lyell’s. It is in acknowledgement of this, that the Society he did so much to promote has chosen its Bicentenary to honour him in this way" Fortey said.

Recalling Prof' Jim Secord's entertaining lecture about the life and legacy of Lyell, and particularly the style of uniformitarianism that Lyell espoused, he went on: "This occasion rather embodies the new uniformitarianism. The Society and this grand building represent continuity and permanence, side by side with a new and profound change - represented by the Lyell Centre on our re-launched website. All the Society's published work – including all of Charles Lyell's, will henceforth be accessible to readers worldwide."

Once the toast was given, the assembled guests were then invited upstairs to view the Lyell Room for themselves, where members of Society Staff were on hand to demonstrate the Lyell Centre, and within it the Lyell Collection, before dinner in the Lower Library. 

Read the speeches in full.


More about the Lyell Collection

Charles Lyell The Lyell Collection provides access to some 14,000 articles and 230,000 pages from the Society’s current and archival content. The content covered by the Collection stretches back to the mid 1800s and includes work by some of the greatest scientific thinkers of their time, such as Charles Darwin, Adam Sedgwick, Roderick Murchison, William Buckland, Andrew Ramsay and Charles Lyell – after whom the Collection is named.

A library subscription to the Lyell Collection includes access to current content and full-text back archives to: Journal of the Geological Society (JGS), Quarterly Journal of Engineering, Geology and Hydrogeology (QJEGH), the Geological Society’s prestigious Special Publications and Memoir book series. New content – around 10,000 pages each year – will be added as new journal issues, Special Publications volumes or key books are published. For 2008, subscribers to the Lyell Collection will receive a free print copy of all books and journals published during the subscription year

From 2008 onwards, those libraries that only wish to subscribe to individual titles from within the Collection (JGS, QJEGH or the Special Publications) will be able to choose from a ‘Current’ option (current year and previous four years) or ‘Plus’ option (current year and full available archive). For the remainder of 2007, those libraries which already have a subscription to publications from the Geological Society of London will receive access to the ‘Plus’ version for the remainder of the year.

The Lyell Collection is hosted by Stanford University’s HighWire Press and can be accessed at: Free access for libraries is being offered until 18 June. The first full subscription year will begin in January 2008, but libraries subscribing for 2008 from 18 June onwards will be given electronic access from September 2007.