AOR on tour: IIIF workshop (Ghent) & CNI fall meeting (Washington, D.C.)
In the last blog of 2015 I’ll give a short update on the conferences several of our “archaeologists” recently attended. Reflecting the various strands of the project, the AOR team consists of scholars, computer engineers, and librarians, and as a result a wide variety of conferences are part of our dissemination activities. Last week, on Tuesday December 8, Matt and I went to Ghent to attend a IIIF workshop. IIIF stands for International Image Interoperability Framework, and can be described as an initiative to open up and make accessible the digital image collections hosted at various institutions such as libraries and archives. Whereas most collections are accessible only through their own purposely built viewers, IIIF-complaint viewers are interoperable and can access all collections that are hosted on image servers that support the IIIF presentation and image APIs. The main advantage for scholars is that they won’t have to use and learn to work with different viewers, but instead can use one viewer to access collections scattered across different institutions, enabling exciting comparative research. Institutions, on the other hand, no longer need to invest in creating and maintaining several viewers.
Although we did not present at this workshop, Matt and I attended it because AOR uses a IIIF-complaint viewer called Mirador. We wanted to enhance our understanding of IIIF and to familiarize ourselves with the various projects that make use of IIIF and are currently rolled out in libraries and other institutions hosting image collections. From the perspective of AOR it is particularly interesting to see the ongoing development of IIIF itself: because its APIs are developed for displaying images and providing some related metadata, the functionalities of most IIIF-complaint viewers generally do not move beyond the viewing and browsing of images. The ability to search the digital transcriptions that are displayed next to the corresponding image is of great importance for AOR, and several use cases comprising search have been developed. Although a IIIF search API currently is in development (to be launched around May 2016), we, and by “we” I actually mean our tech wizards Mark and John, are already working on adding some search functionalities to our viewer. In this way, AOR can contribute to the development of IIIF.
A week later, I flew to Washington D.C. to give a presentation with Sayeed Choudhury, Associate Dean for Research Data Management at Johns Hopkins, at the fall meeting of the Coalition for Networked Information (CNI). Interestingly, there were various presentations on IIIF, as well as on projects that relate to data management and preservation within universities, archives, and libraries. In our talk, Sayeed and I focused on the developmental process and workflow of AOR rather than on its outcomes to date. We emphasized the fact that, from the very outset of the project, computer engineers and scholars have been closely working together in creating the project’s infrastructure. This close cooperation is visible in the development of the schema (see my previous posts) and the uses cases, for example, but also in the ongoing discussions about the AOR data model. As Matt has succinctly phrased it: AOR does not rely on a “client-provider” model, where at some point in the project humanists simply ask the techies to build X or Y (which can have disastrous results if at the designing stage critical things have been overlooked). Instead, the development of the AOR infrastructure has been iterative and has evolved out of a continuing dialogue, a deep engagement between scholars and computer engineers, making optimal use of the particular skills and expertise of all team members. This approach, we believe, is one of the strengths of the project, and we shall continue to benefit from it in the future!
This was all for now and, for that matter, for 2015. I’d like to end by wishing all the readers of our blogs happy holidays and a wonderful 2016! See you next year!
Update: Our CNI talk can be viewed online! See: AOR @CNI