A Crash Course in IIIF

We have finally come to a topic that has been hinted at throughout this course and, as a matter of fact, is something that we have come into contact with through our Medieval Ottawa website. As you likely know already the topic of this week is the International Image Interoperability Framework or IIIF for short.

As someone with only a vague understanding of IIIF these readings were helpful in clarifying exactly what IIIF entails. Also, the readings outline the benefits of IIIF for researchers and digital humanities projects. I suggest starting with the Intro to IIIF reading as it not only introduces you to IIIF it also explains why IIIF was created in the first place. Following this intro you will have a better understanding of IIIF when you then check out projects like the Demo Search site for IIIF images via Biblissima and the British Library’s latest project on Medieval England and France manuscripts from 700-1200 (check out all the neat images here.

There is also a section in the Intro to IIIF dedicated to API (Application Programming Interfaces) that illustrates how an Image API differs from a Presentation API. This difference comes down to the information each one provides, i.e. the Image API is the data of the image whereas the Presentation API provides data about the image. This is just a brief explanation that the readings will explain more thoroughly with pictures! I also recommend watching the IIIF Vatican video at the bottom of the Intro to IIIF page. It’s a bit long but I discovered it really clarifies the possibilities of IIIF alongside its collaborative component.

Furthermore, the readings not only define IIIF they also provide us with examples of this framework in action through Gallica, e-Codices and the Sinai Palimpsest project. Keeping in mind what you have recently learned about IIIF here are some questions to consider:

  • Look at the list of the current institutions using IIIF. Though it looks vast there is definitely room for growth. How could more institutions be encouraged to adopt IIIF? Why should more institutions use IIIF?
  • Why was there a need for IIIF in the first place? How did IIIF combat the problem facing images displayed digitally?
  • How does Gallica, e-Codices and the Sinai Palimpsest project benefit from IIIF?
  • Why might it be important to clarify that IIIF is “not a finished project but rather the steps/guides to assist in the use of digital special collections”? What might be some misconceptions about IIIF?

For our class, IIIF represents an important step forward in the field of digital history but, the benefits of IIIF stretch far beyond us. While we will eventually investigate annotating with IIIF for now at lease we understand this resource!

One Reply to “A Crash Course in IIIF”

  1. I am very thankful that you posted this blog post a couple days before leading the seminar – it helped immensely in trying to even vaguely understand IIIF. The readings we had this week were not as interesting as they usually are, however the topic they presented is actually quite amazing. I took your recommendation of watching the Vatican video that is given at the bottom on the Intro to IIIF and I was amazed at what can be done with this technology. Academics around the world can now study manuscripts (and other medias) as if they were holding them in front of them! The immense detail that IIIF allows the viewers to see in the photograph on the website platform is remarkable, zooming in on details that would be blurry on any other image platform. Another amazing thing about IIIF is that people can compare and study two different manuscripts at the same time – a great thing to happen in the realm of academia.
    In class we also discussed that IIIF may have certain barriers, though I disagree. The only barrier I see it having is that it is not accessible to those without computers – such as many things that are made available on the internet. IIIF is truly a great development and I believe that even if there are older generations who are not familiar with it, they will be excited to use it because they will be able to experience digitized manuscripts that they have not before.
    Overall, you led a great seminar with an extremely difficult and complex topic and you were able to break it down for us all to get a better understanding of it. I cannot one hundred percent say with confidence that I can explain what IIIF is and all its functions, however I can at least explain the very basics of it (hopefully).

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