International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF): a new standard for collaboration, usability, and research

IIIF instead of expensive stand-alone solutions

IIIF LogoSince the beginning of cultural property digitization in the 1990s, numerous technical solutions were developed for Internet presentation of digital assets from libraries, archives, and museums. Several (highly) specialized viewers for digital images were developed for each digitization project.

Therefore, today's users of digital image repositories are compelled to deal with a variety of viewers and diverse functionalities. These numerous stand-alone solutions have become, especially in terms of maintenance a big problem for digitization facilities.

The IIIF community has created new standards for accessing and sharing digital images on the Internet. They also facilitate the interoperability between image repositories and through data sharing the international cooperation in research.

IIIF Community

In 2011, the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) was formed with support of the Mellon Foundation as a joint initiative of renowned memory organizations, which include Harvard University, Stanford University Libraries, Cornell University, British Library, Bodleian libraries (Oxford) as well as the national libraries of France and Norway. Today, the IIIF Community is already supported by more than 20 museums, libraries and archives from all over the world. Since June 2015, the Bavarian State Library is one of the core founding members of this global consortium.

IIIF Technology

The International Interoperability Framework (IIIF) consists of two Application Programming Interfaces (APIs):

  • The Image API defines a web service for the delivery of images (size, rotation, quality, regions).
  • The Presentation API describes a service for the delivery of structural and presentation information about digital content. It returns JSON-LD structured documents [Example].

The IIIF APIs can be set up with very different technical solutions. IIIF creates an unprecedented interoperability and allows the inter-institutional exchange of digital objects as well as their visualization in very different view

IIIF at the Bavarian State Library

The Munich DigitiZation Center (MDZ) of the Bavarian State Library has already used IIIF with large amounts of data for the bavarikon portal. On the experience gained here will be built up, as the use of IIIF offers the following advantages:

  • Possibility to present high resolution images with 300 ppi and more.
  • Standardized APIs for accessing (internal/external) and interoperability of the images with other IIIF image repositories.
  • Possibility to use an ever increasing number of IIIF compliant viewer developments of the IIIF Community, for example Mirador and specialized Viewers for newspapers or the Universal Viewer for video, audio, images, and 3D objects.
  • Maintenance of only one technical infrastructure.

IIIF Demonstrator and Mirador

The MDZ uses the Mirador software for its IIIF demonstrator with over 270 digitized manuscripts that originate from current digitization projects.

Mirador is not just a viewer, but also an online research tool for manuscripts. It is a development of Harvard University and Stanford University. Mirador is easy to install and runs as a browser application based on HTML5 and JavaScript. It enables inter alia a continuous zoom into high-resolution images. The viewer workspace can be flexibly configured and allows viewing, browsing, annotating, and comparing of digital objects. These objects may originate from different repositories all over the world, provided they meet the IIIF standard.

A video-based help to use the IIIF demonstrator can be found here.

IIIF – Next steps

The BavarianState Library will successively extend the access on all 1.2 million copyright-free digitzed books according to the IIIF standards. A first step was the IIIF demonstrator. In a second step, all previously digitized approximately 10,000 medieval manuscripts and incunabula as well as newspapers will follow. By 2017, in a third step, all copyright-free 1.2 million digital book will be accessible in a IIIF compliant and interoperable way.

Version 3.8.7 | 25.10.2016

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