I can make an HTML page with image tags that point at other people’s images: a page of Rembrandts from different art museums. If those images are open then it doesn’t matter whether my browser sends cookies for the publisher’s domain. The images will be served with or without those cookies.

But if the images are access-controlled, the publisher will expect to see a session cookie or similar credential in the request. My page of Rembrandts could include a note for the user: “log in over at example-museum.org, if you want to see this image”. …

The challenges facing IIIF

The International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) is a set of open standards that enable the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian, the British Library, the Bibliothèque nationale de France and hundreds of other universities, museums and cultural heritage institutions worldwide to provide digitised books, manuscripts, artworks, audio, video and other objects of cultural heritage as part of a shared digital space. If browser-based viewers, annotation tools, research platforms and other applications work with IIIF, then they work with billions of objects of cultural heritage from around the world.

Happily, the vast majority of this content is open…

“Have a look at this…” you might say, spinning the book round and marking the place with your finger.

IIIF Content State is how we point at things in IIIF.

Why do we want to point at things? So we can make a note for ourselves, or show someone else. This is something like a citation. A footnote tells me the relevant passage is on page 43. We can manage references in software tools like Zotero or EndNote, particularly references to things on the web. A citation is a blob of information that conforms to some accepted standard. If we…

Although our work at The UK National Archives isn’t particularly about digitised content, I’ve still been thinking about how records map to IIIF, the model for presenting complex digital objects on the web.

This is how things are organised at The National Archives:

Archival hierarchy at The National Archives

There are over 400 Departments at the top level, representing for the most part various machineries of the state over the last 1000 or so years. For example, GUK is the Records of the GOV.UK …

Photo by Omar Flores on Unsplash

This is part of a series. The part 1 considered why visitors to The National Archives on the web are confused. Part 2 delved into how we can help them find what they’re looking for. This final part looks at possible solutions.

Intelligent systems

One solution to the bafflement problem is to sit the user next to a kind and infinitely patient archivist while they go about their exploration. The archivist can watch what the user is doing, see where they are getting stuck, suggest different finding strategies, run a few queries in the background related to the user’s current activity to…

Photo by Alex Wong on Unsplash

This is part of a series. The first part considered why visitors to The National Archives on the web are confused. This part begins to look at ways of helping them out.

How do we reduce bafflement?

The feeling at The National Archives is that the bafflement would be reduced if the user’s mental model was aligned with how archives work; users would better understand what they are navigating, why they can’t see what they expected to see, and could use that model to inform how they explore, search and interpret results.

But are we after a user experience that conveys that model, that gently…

Photo by Ryoji Iwata on Unsplash

After 20 years of living in a world with Google in it, many web users consider themselves fairly sophisticated when it comes to finding things. That big search box leads us to likely-looking results, and we know how to tweak our queries if we sense them going down the wrong path. We don’t know much about what’s really happening behind the scenes, but significant amounts of money depend on our interactions with search and our understanding of search results and their relationship with the web pages they lead to.

People who make web pages try hard to make their pages…

You often curl up with a book. You might even read your Kindle in the bath. But have you ever curled up with a viewer? Would you even consider it? If not, why not?

When a library photographs the pages and obtains the text of printed books, and presents those books online in a digital object viewer, how well does this serve the reader who wants to spend the next three hours with one text? Digitised books can offer interactions that a pile of books on a desk cannot. But what exactly are those interactions for the reader, and are…

Introducing Digirati’s work with the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Delft University of Technology Library: we’ve been making tools that bring objects from a digitised collection into the editorial process.

Sketch designs for Static Site Generator, Delft University of Technology Library. Design: Studio Mellegers van Dam

How much time and effort can you spend on bespoke narratives built from collection content? If your collection is available via the IIIF Presentation API, then it could be less time than you think.

Suppose you have a large collection available as IIIF. Perhaps each catalogue page shows a viewer providing a common user experience. Each item in the collection is published as a IIIF Manifest. If you want…

This is the final part of a series of posts describing our work on the pilot archive project, Science in the Making.

The output of our second UX workshop gave us sketches for the key pages of the site. We also had a hard drive full of digitised TIFF masters of the items selected for the pilot, a file share containing some spreadsheets, and the Royal Society’s pattern library for design reference.

These spreadsheets were the first data artifact provided by The Royal Society. They are the manual enrichment of the existing archive records from the archive management system, CALM…

Tom Crane

Technology Director, Digirati

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