Monsters are real online

Fabulosus equus Neptuni, Pierre Belon’s Cenomani De aquatilibus… (1553)

Fabulosus equus Neptuni, Pierre Belon’s Cenomani De aquatilibus… (1553)

Are monsters real? It’s a question well suited to the Halloween season, and one that has some interesting roots. For centuries man has recorded strange animal sightings, told stories of curious creatures, and attempted to explore their origins. Whole entertainment categories and genres of fiction have resulted from our keen fascination with the zoological sciences and cryptozoology.

Now, a modern-day organization committed to digitizing biodiversity literature is putting monster myth and history on display. This week, from October 27th through October 31st, the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) – a “consortium of natural history and botanical libraries” – is running a campaign designed to remind us that much of the world’s most fearsome monster imagery is based on actual beasts. The organization has created an album on Flickr that showcases stories and vintage drawings of zoological marvels spanning centuries. It’s an incredibly rich and detailed visual narrative of how “an oarfish became a sea serpent…A manatee a mermaid…A whale a leviathan…A giant squid a Kraken.”

You can learn more about Monsters Are Real here, or follow this exciting campaign on Facebook and Twitter, where the BHL is revealing the valid species on which many of its featured drawings were based. Images, along with wonderful animated GIFs, are also being posted to the Smithsonian Libraries Tumblr.

Happy Halloween!

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