Yale Center for British Art adds online collection of images into international system for research

A detail from George Stubbs' Pumpkin with a Stable-lad
A detail from George Stubbs' "Pumpkin with a Stable-lad" (1774), oil on panel.

The Yale Center for British Art has now made available through its online collection nearly 70,000 images of works of art in the public domain that are compliant with the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF).

IIIF is a technology framework that supports enriched image use, including comparing, manipulating, and annotating multiple images within and across collections. The IIIF Consortium consists of the world’s leading libraries, museums, universities, research institutions, and image repositories, working in a collaborative system for sharing uniform and rich access to image-based resources on the web. IIIF supports a 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.

A video demonstration prepared by Michael Appleby, head of information technology at the Yale Center for British Art, shows how easily researchers can access and use the center’s images along with IIIF-compliant images from other museums and libraries. By clicking on the IIIF logo for a selected image in the center’s online collection, users can pull images into Mirador, a free, open-source image viewer, and drag and drop images from other collections into the same viewer for side-by-side comparative research. With IIIF, millions of images and associated metadata from institutions across the world can be deployed for research in the same shared format.

Matthew Hargraves, chief curator of art collections at the Yale Center for British Art, explained what is particularly unique and noteworthy about what the project has accomplished: “The Yale Center for British Art was a core founding member of the IIIF Consortium and one of the first museums in the world to commit to delivering IIIF-compliant images. The center is dedicated to providing ever-greater access to our extraordinary collection of images to support research and all fields of creative endeavor. By adopting the IIIF, our images can now travel beyond the confines of our own website and become fully interoperable with images from other collections, greatly enhancing the ability to pursue research in the digital environment.”

The Getty, another member of the consortium, also made more than 30,000 images in the J. Paul Getty Museum’s collection available. The Center and the Getty have helped lead a growing international progression towards cooperatively adopting IIIF.

“Image content is the fundamental way that the global online population interacts with cultural heritage. The interactions made possible by adopting the IIIF framework enable a deep engagement with our collections, and those of the rest of the world, in a way that has never been possible before,” noted James Cuno, president of the J. Paul Getty Trust. “The community has worked together to build the most amazing set of tools, and we are seeing them adopted at an unprecedented rate. As advocates for open access to image content, the Getty is proud to be part of the IIIF consortium and congratulates the Yale Center for British Art on its outstanding progress and commitment to this new direction in the cultural heritage sector.”

Yale University, led by the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library and the Yale Center for British Art, was one of the 11 core founding members of the IIIF Consortium, which also included Artstor, the Bavarian State Library, the British Library, Cornell University, the National Library of France, the National Library of Norway, Oxford University, Princeton University, Stanford University, and the Wellcome Trust. It now includes over forty cultural heritage institutions, such as Chinese University of Hong Kong, Harvard University, the J. Paul Getty Trust, Leiden University, the National Library of Israel, University of Tokyo, University of Toronto, and the Vatican Library.

“The founder of the Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon, emphasized free and open access to collections as a fundamental value of our institution,” said the center’s director, Amy Meyers. “When the Center opened its doors to the public in 1977, no one could have anticipated the exciting technological advances that have made this remarkable and unprecedented level of international exchange possible. However, this is just one example of how research and education at Yale University are at the forefront of innovation. Collaborating with extraordinary colleagues at leading institutions across the university and across the globe to help establish new global standards for scholarship is a hallmark of our work at Yale.”

The release of IIIF images by the center and the Getty comes as both organizations join other members of the consortium at the 2017 IIIF Conference in the Vatican, beginning on June 5. The conference is intended for a worldwide community of participants who believe that access to image-based resources is fundamental to research, scholarship, and the transmission of cultural knowledge.

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