Bodleian hosts international library leaders for launch of consortium to improve access to images of collections

19 June 2015

Leaders from 11 research libraries, national libraries, and nonprofit image repositories from around the world met at the University of Oxford's Bodleian Libraries' Weston Library on 15-16 June to form the International Image Interoperability Framework Consortium.

Image of IIIF founding membersThe Bodleian Libraries is one of the core founding members of this global consortium, which aims to standardize and improve the sharing and displaying of image-based scholarly resources on the web.

Access to image-based resources is fundamental to research, scholarship and the transmission of cultural knowledge. Until now, much of the internet's image-based resources have been locked up in silos, with access restricted to custom-built applications. The International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) supports uniform display of images of books, maps, scrolls, manuscripts, musical scores and archival material from participating institutions for display, manipulation, measurement and annotation by scholars and students working individually or in groups around the world.

The IIIF initiative was conceived on the back of a napkin at a Cuban Image of first plans of the IIIF on a napkinrestaurant in Palo Alto, California at a dinner of technologists from the Bodleian Libraries, the British Library and Stanford University Libraries. This week, eleven institutions committed resources and officially formed the International Image Interoperability Framework Consortium (IIIF-C), which will oversee the ongoing development of the IIIF technology as well as the growth of the community.

'The Bodleian Libraries has been digitizing items from our collections for more than 20 years,' said Richard Ovenden, Bodley's Librarian. 'Now we are delighted to join forces with libraries and institutions across the world to develop uniform approaches and platforms that will provide scholars with easier access to images from all of our rich collections.'

Ovenden attended the meeting of the IIIF core founding members along with Lucie Burgess, Associate Director for Digital Libraries at the Bodleian Libraries. Joining the Bodleian Libraries, the British Library and Stanford as part of the IIIF-C are Artstor, Die Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (The Bavarian State Library), Cornell University, La Bibliothèque nationale de France (The National Library of France), Nasjonalbiblioteket (The National Library of Norway), Princeton University Library, Wellcome Trust and Yale University (Yale Center for British Art, Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library).

Image of IIIF logoThe IIIF-C aims to reduce inefficiency and needless redundancy born from incompatibility in the current international image delivery ecosystem. The framework includes two application program interfaces (APIs). The Image API provides access to the image content and technical descriptions. The Presentation API gives just enough structural and descriptive information about the image's context to appropriately render it in an arbitrary, web-based, viewing environment.

While IIIF's origins are in libraries, the community is rapidly expanding to include museums, archives and image services of all types, creating new opportunities for exchange and collaboration across sectors. In addition to the founding IIIF-C members, 20 other institutions are contributing to discussions on specifications for interoperability and providing both open source and commercial implementations of the APIs currently available.

By adopting the IIIF and becoming part of the community, institutions gain access to well supported and sustainable technologies, and enrich scholarly use of their materials. For more information, visit http://iiif.io.

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