Stanford Libraries boosts international image sharing

This screen capture of the Mirador viewer developed by Stanford is IIIF compatible. Mirador enables researchers to pull images of art, manuscripts, books, scrolls or other image-based resources from a partner institution around the world and view them side by side, zoom and annotate them. (Screen capture courtesy Stanford University Libraries.)

Stanford University Libraries is one of the key players in a major new effort to share images with scholars around the world.

The International Image Interoperability Framework, or IIIF, includes Stanford and 10 other institutions. It was formally established June 18.

University Librarian MICHAEL KELLER said that digitizing, reproducing and preserving cultural and historical artifacts has been a high priority in the academic world for the past few decades.

“With IIIF,” he said in a library blog post, “we turn our attention to making those digital surrogates more easily accessed and compatible with scholarly applications. No one institution can or should do this alone, for the talent of the collective is required to scale and sustain this initiative.”

For researchers in every discipline, the ability to access image-based resources is fundamental to their scholarship. But the problem has been that many of the Internet’s image-based resources have been difficult for those outside of a particular organization to access.

The idea behind the IIIF is for these 11 institutions, including Stanford, to share in a massive treasure trove of scholarly images and develop the technology to share them. By creating a “uniform display of images” – the critical element – researchers will be able to see images such as books, maps, scrolls, manuscripts and other archival material. They can also manipulate, measure and annotate those images. This is all made possible because the IIIF is anchored by two application programming interfaces developed and vetted by an open community process.

IIIF_Founders_photoAs noted on the IIIF website, the consortium encourages “compatible image serving and viewing software” that is easy to install and offers a “dazzling user experience.”

Joining Stanford as part of the consortium are Oxford University, the British Library, the Bavarian State Library, Cornell University, the National Library of France, the National Library of Norway, Princeton University Library, Wellcome Library in London, ARTStor digital library and Yale University.

According to the Stanford University Libraries website, the IIIF initiative was conceived on the back of a napkin at a Cuban restaurant in Palo Alto, Calif. It happened at a dinner of staff from Stanford, Oxford and the British Library.