Global consortium forms to standardise and improve sharing and displaying of image-based scholarly resources on the web

Leaders from eleven research libraries, national libraries, and nonprofit image repositories met at Oxford University to form the International Image Interoperability Framework Consortium.

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 restaurant in Palo Alto, California at a dinner of technologists from the Bodleian Libraries at Oxford University, the British Library and Stanford University Libraries.  Yesterday, eleven institutions committed resources and officially formed the International Image Interoperability Framework Consortium, which will oversee the ongoing development of the IIIF technology as well as the growth of the community.

Joining Oxford, the British Library and Stanford as part of the Consortium 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).

Roly Keating, Chief Executive of the British Library, said: “The advent of digital images and the mass digitisation of heritage items – from ancient manuscripts and medieval maps to early photographs and 19th century newspapers – has transformed the ways in which scholars are able to research and collaborate across geographical and institutional boundaries. Coming together to form the IIIF Consortium will enable us to create tools and services for a new generation of online resources, advancing both knowledge and mutual understanding.

“These tools will improve the research experience, enabling users around the world to access multiple digitised sources in a richer and much more coherent manner,” he added, “including being able to annotate, describe, link and embed images, as well as viewing items held in different institutions simultaneously via a single interface - the holy grail of interoperability. The standards developed by the IIIF Consortium will also enable the development of tools by others, unlocking a whole range of creative responses to the challenges and potential of image-based digital research.”

The Consortium aims to reduce inefficiency and needless redundancy born from incompatibility in the current 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 Consortium 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

Notes to Editors

About IIIF

The IIIF is driven by a group of research libraries, national libraries, and nonprofit image repositories committed to opening access to cherished image resources. IIIF (International Image Interoperability Framework) has the following goals:

  • To give scholars an unprecedented level of uniform and rich access to image-based resources hosted around the world.
  • To define a set of common application programming interfaces that support interoperability between image repositories.
  • To develop, cultivate and document shared technologies, such as image servers and web clients that provide a world-class user experience in viewing, comparing, manipulating and annotating images.

For more information:

Ben Sanderson
The British Library
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The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and one of the world's greatest research libraries. It provides world class information services to the academic, business, research and scientific communities and offers unparalleled access to the world's largest and most comprehensive research collection. The Library's collection has developed over 250 years and exceeds 150 million separate items representing every age of written civilisation and includes books, journals, manuscripts, maps, stamps, music, patents, photographs, newspapers and sound recordings in all written and spoken languages. Up to 10 million people visit the British Library website - - every year where they can view up to 4 million digitised collection items and over 40 million pages.