Tim Sherratt

Sharing recent updates and work-in-progress

May 2024

Using IIIF to explore Trove's digitised images

I’ve just added a new notebook to the Trove images section of the GLAM Workbench. It helps you save a collection of digitised images as an IIIF manifest. But what does that mean? It means the notebook packages up all the metadata describing the images in a standard form that can be used with a variety of IIIF-compliant tools. These tools let you do things with the collections that you can’t do in Trove’s own interface.

Perhaps you’d like to browse the complete digitised contents of Sir Edmund Barton’s manuscript collection, without all the back and forth and up and down navigation imposed by the Trove web interface. Here you go, thanks to IIIF!

What’s IIIF?

The International Image Interoperability Framework, more conveniently known as IIIF, develops open standards for sharing digital objects, such as images. IIIF platforms and standards are used by GLAM organisations around the world to deliver their image collections online.

Once you have standards for sharing image metadata, people can build tools that work across collections. For example, Universal Viewer and Mirador are both richly featured, open source, community developed image viewing platforms.

IIIF manifests are JSON files that describe a set of digital objects. They include technical information about the images and how to access them, as well as metadata describing their content and context. Everything you need to explore the images is packaged up in a single, standards based file. This means that if you point a manifest at tools like Universal Viewer and Mirador, they can present the images to users without any special configuration.

Why is the new notebook needed?

Unfortunately Trove doesn’t provide data using IIIF standards. Indeed, it doesn’t really supply any machine-readable data about the contents of digital collections. The notebook scrapes metadata from Trove’s digital collection viewer, reassembling it as a standard IIIF manifest.

What’s possible?

Here are a few more examples of manifests created with the new notebook.

Trove collection manifest
B.A.N.Z. Antarctic Research Expedition photographs nla.obj-141170265-v3-manifest.json view in UV3 view in Mirador
The Papers of Sir Edmund Barton nla.obj-224441684-v3-manifest.json view in UV3 view in Mirador
Papers relating to the Federation Campaign (a single series from the Barton papers) nla.obj-224441858-v3-manifest.json view in UV3 view in Mirador
Postcard portraits of actresses, and of Australian towns, 1900s nla.obj-224441858-v3-manifest.json view in UV3 view in Mirador

I’m just linking to the standard demonstration versions of Universal Viewer and Mirador, but they can be extended with plugins that add more functionality, such as annotation. As demonstrated above, it’s also easy to embed the viewers in your own website.

Manifests can also be used to move data between programs. Tropy, for example, is a desktop tool for managing collections of images for research. It can import images and metadata from an IIIF manifest. So if you want to add your own notes and transcriptions to a digitised manuscript collection in Trove, you could save it as an IIIF manifest, then load it in Tropy.

I’m just about to start documenting some of these possibilities and pathways for the Trove Data Guide.

One more thing

While I was developing the notebook, I noticed another inconsistency in the way Trove’s digitised collections are arranged. This meant that in some cases my notebook to download all the images from a collection might not get every image. I’ve made some changes that should fix this and uploaded a new version of the notebook.