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!

A Post-Seminar Reflection

Hi Everyone,

Yesterday I led my final seminar for the term. I am very relieved to be finished with leading seminars as it is something I still have yet to become completely comfortable doing.

The seminar went very smoothly and it seemed as though there was a lot of engagement. In addition to discussing digital images, a lot of our conversations began to turn towards brainstorming for our final project. I felt as though I had skipped several classes because everyone was talking as though we have figured out exactly what we are doing.  We are now using Trello which is yet another app/program that I will have to become familiar with to communicate with our peers. Even though everyone is talking as though we have everything figured out, I am still not sure exactly what our final project will be (I believe this is true for everyone – unless I am VERY out of the loop despite attending every class). Matt brought up an exciting idea of interviewing everyone and compiling the footage into an exciting video we can use for publicity purposes. The trip to the history department digitization studio and the Underhill Reading Room was a nice mini field trip to end the class with.

Overall, I am happy that the majority of the online portion for our final project will be handled by the web development team. The exhibit team is for sure where I will be most comfortable. I am really looking forward to working with Veronica as a team leader – I feel as though she will be very successful in this role.  I talked briefly with her over slack about my project for next Monday. I am being placed in charge of deciding which manuscripts will be included in our exhibit. I look forward to working on this over the coming week and discussing it more with my peers. I am excited to see where we go with this project.

See you in class!


Photographing Documents

Welcome back everyone in HIST 4006! Another semester beginning means that the blogposts are due to start once again. I’m not sure how many of you recall, but in my blogpost reflecting on my seminar lead I mentioned wanting to start my preparations for my next seminar lead over the Christmas break. This unfortunately did not happen and as a result, I largely repeated the same process over again, stressing myself out the entire way! So, here is my pre-seminar blogpost.

This week we will be discussing photographing and digitizing documents. Our readings focused on a variety of topics from types of images to various digital technologies that can be used to capture these photos.

Our readings went over the definition and intended use for the file types TIFF, GIF, JPG, RAW, BMP and PSD/PSP. They highlighted the pros and cons of each, as well as detailing the various compression capacities each file format is capable of. The readings also discussed things to keep in mind when undertaking a digitization project including costs, legal issues, research, and preservation techniques among other things.

There are two types of compressions that were discussed in the readings: lossless and lossy. Lossless is a compression format that discards no information, whereas lossy is a format that accepts some loss of information in order to have smaller file sizes.

We were required to watch an assortment of videos this week as well, which explained various functions of some of the high-tech scanners that are available at some institutions. In addition to the scanners, some of the videos were propaganda that institutions were using to spread the word about their digitization efforts to a wider audience. Some of these were done successfully, and I found to be very interesting, while others were quite dry.

Some questions to consider for class tomorrow:

  • RAW images are commonly not compatible when switching between devices. Do you believe these are a valuable resource to consider when photographing documents? Why/Why not?
  • Some of the videos we were required to watch for class today, despite attempting to gather interest into digitization initiatives, were quite dry. What are some things about these videos that we should aim to avoid in our publicizing practices for our own exhibit? What are some things we maybe should consider adopting?
  • One of the articles we were required to read today stated that a large aim of the project they were working on was to bring access to these documents to audiences outside of academia to read ‘in coffee shops or on the bus’. Do you think this is something people will actually do? If not, what are some ways these institutions can encourage people to take interest in these documents?


See you all in class,


The Beginning of the End

Happy Saturday everyone! I thought I would title this blog post “The Beginning of the End” since we are already two weeks into the semester, meaning that there is only 10 weeks left…

As we enter second semester in full swing, I have had time to reflect on our first semester and look ahead to what our final semester will bring us. Being able to lead the first seminar alongside Nick was a great way to kick off the semester for myself. I was able to start the semester by thinking deeply and broadly about this topic. It was great for all of us as a group to dive into the idea of what is digital history and considering all the implications, positives and have a deep conversation was useful. There are many layers and underpinnings when it comes to understanding digital history that I think we would need more than a blog post to truly develop these thoughts. One way that I think we can summarize our thoughts would be to truly use our final project as a way to synthesize our thoughts and materialize all of our ideas and notions of what we believe digital history to be. I think an important thought to consider, and something that we have brought up, is what legacy do we want to leave behind? Hopefully our project lasts beyond this semester and that we are able to provide light on the manuscripts that Carleton has and raise some awareness about the importance and pertinence of manuscript studies within post-secondary education.

In Veronica’s most recent blog post, she brought up the excellent point about pushing our own limits and seeing where this project can take us. In the first semester, I think we really doubted ourselves and our abilities (I mean I know I did especially when it can to deciphering what my text was saying!). With this semester however, I feel like we really have “sunk our feet in” sort of say and have the fundamentals to be extremely successful. Each of us brings something unique to the table and if we play to our strengths, this project will turn out better than what we expect.

Now, this blog post has turned into a motivational speech therefore I want to turn back to consider the practicalities of the final project. I have taken on the role of Project Manager which means that I will have to “have my hands” in everything. I think this role will be important to create a brand, form consistency and ensure that we remain true to ourselves while creating this project. What will this project be you may ask (for anyone reading this outside of our course), well follow our Instagram, medieval_book for updates and more information! We have recently reached over 100 followers without even posting content yet. I am excited to see where we leave our digital footprint this semester.

Looking Forward to the Future

Two weeks into the second half of this course and it’s occurring to me that there is much to explore around the subject of ‘Digitizing Medieval Manuscripts’. While the previous semester provided some crucial information about medieval manuscripts, going forward our class will consider how to present digitally what we have learned to a wider audience. The following post contains some of my initial thoughts as we enter this new phase of the course.

In my research into what a ‘digital humanities project’ could encompass I came across a few different examples that presented history (a subject I have devoted a decent amount of time and energy towards) in a manner that would appeal to my friends and family who do not necessarily share my passion for the discipline. Additionally, I saw examples of projects that could assist scholars with their research. Perhaps one day a scholar will be able to use the information around medieval manuscripts that my classmates and I have collected.

When it comes to essays, exams and other assignments I have completed in university I will admit that these rarely cross my mind after I receive a mark. That being said, the Omeka entry (as well as our class’ upcoming project) will hopefully be pieces of work that I will think about years from now. The idea of long-lived assignments ties into one of the key aspects (longevity) my classmates and I will have to consider as we develop our digital humanities project. How can we ensure that our work does not disappear over time or become ‘out of date’ in terms of its usefulness and appeal? I do not have the answers to those question just yet but perhaps I will by the end of the term.

When the class brainstormed what we could do for our final project the possibilities seemed endless! Our ideas ranged from various websites to games and apps that we could use on our phones. Of course we recognized that while these ideas sounded great on paper we had to be realistic when it came to our skill level and the time that we have to complete this project. In a way our brainstorming session demonstrated the beauty of digital humanities projects. There were so many routes we could have pursued that I cannot wait to see what future undergraduate students create when they are tasked with their own projects of this nature. There may have been a little bit of a challenge staying focused at first but that was just because we each had our own ideas concerning how to approach this project. Though there are some plans to finalize, each step in the process gets us closer to the final result!

As anyone who tries something different for the first time knows, the experience includes a fair share of challenges that need to be overcome. Last term I did not think it would be possible to transcribe Medieval Latin but, take a look at my Omeka entry and you will see that I managed to do it. I cannot wait to see my classmates and I will create as we craft our own digital humanities project that will (hopefully) survive long after our days at Carleton.