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2 minutes to read Posted on Thursday August 31, 2017

Updated on Wednesday September 20, 2017

portrait of Marjolein de Vos

Marjolein de Vos

Co-operating coordinator Metadata Specialists, Former Data Ingestion Specialist, Europeana , Leiden University Libraries

IIIF datasets in Europeana: A scholar’s delight

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Since its conception in 2011, the international community of the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) has taken important steps in improving the way cultural heritage institutions (CHIs) present images on their digital collections platforms. Proper access to digitised heritage, as the IIIF Consortium acknowledges, is fundamental for research communities in a great variety of fields and one of its aims is to “give scholars an unprecedented level of uniform and rich access to image-based resources hosted around the world” (Source).

Europeana has also taken part in this initiative and is advocating the implementation of IIIF for digitized cultural heritage collections as a member of the IIIF Executive Committee. Since 2016 it is possible for institutions to deliver their IIIF resources to Europeana through the IIIF profile in the Europeana Data Model (EDM) (find the Guidelines here). This does not only facilitate the sharing of images but also give the user a richer viewing experience on the Europeana portal with deeper zoom. These resources are also accessible through our APIs.

Detail from The Cornshocks, after a painting by Van Gogh, 19th century, Nationalmuseum, Sweden, Public domain.

Now that an ever increasing amount of CHIs are implementing IIIF for their collections, the number of cultural heritage objects aggregated in the Europeana portal following this protocol continues to grow. These are important steps in the ongoing process of providing users with better quality digitised heritage such as paintings, manuscripts, printed books, archaeological and archival material, etc. The work of the IIIF Taskforce, furthermore, makes vital contributions to the future of IIIF in Europeana.

Europeana’s entry and role in IIIF has positive effects for all parties. Not only will it help establish IIIF implementation across the Europeana Network but it bridges connections between US and EU based research and heritage institutions fostering more direct collaboration in terms of open source software development, data sharing, and technical interoperability.

Not only is this a significant improvement for the general user, but the benefits for the scholarly community are even greater. A more uniform and richer experience while accessing image-based resources is indispensable in making collections more interoperable and accessible to empower research. This protocol is of interest for many fields of scholarship, from researchers studying materials such as manuscripts, paintings, photographs, to incunabula, historical newspapers, and other archival documents.

Detail of the Commentarii in somnium Scipionis cum glossis by Ambrosius Theodosius Macrobius, 1st half of the 13th century, Universitätsbibliothek Heidelberg, Cod. Sal. XIV,36, CC BY-SA.

IIIF is not merely limited to opening up material to deeper zoom. Other possibilities, depending on the viewer used, include the ability to rotate, adjust colour composition (such as saturation), compare side-by-side, and create and share annotations. Furthermore, there is the possibility of copying the manifest(s) (a JSON-LD document) into a viewer of your own choosing and annotate, create custom collections and showcases for teaching or research purposes. Depending on the IIIF-viewer, other options for interacting with the images are available (see the options and demos here). Europeana Collections has implemented Leaflet.js with a IIIF-plugin to display the resources; the manifests can be picked from the JSON (read more about it on this page).

It is a continued effort from the Europeana ingestion team to work closely with aggregators and CHIs to increase the number of records on Europeana Collections with IIIF resources. At the moment more than 300,000 records are available on Collections, with more to come.

Explore the broad range of ‘IIIF-ified’ collections that Europeana offers:

These datasets contain, among others, a mix of archeological finds, newspapers, maps, paintings, medieval manuscripts and charters, manuscript fragments, and (early) printed books.