Stanford Libraries introduces new features in SearchWorks to support enhanced access to image collections

Logo of the International Image Interoperability Framework

The Stanford University Libraries (SUL) has introduced new features in its online catalog, SearchWorks, and the Stanford Digital Repository to make it easier for users worldwide to get access to a treasure trove of high resolution digital images.  The basis of these new features is the International Image Interoperability Framework, a global initiative co-founded by SUL to support the creation of a global network of broadly accessible images curated and produced by libraries, museums, archives and galleries to support research, teaching and broad public use.  

IIIF is a new set of technology standards intended to make it easier for researchers, students and the public to view, manipulate, compare and annotate digital images on the web. It has been adopted, or is in the process of being adopted, by many of the world's cultural institutions who have been systematically digitizing their collections for years.  You can see a partial list of institutions adopting IIIF here.

Now when you go to any record for a digitized image in SearchWorks you will see the IIIF logo . This means that the image can be used in any IIIF-compatible viewer, making it possible to easily compare it to similar images at other institutions or to deeply analyse, manipulate or annotate them.  An example of a IIIF-compatible viewer is Mirador, which was initially developed at Stanford and is now being extended in collaboration with Harvard, the National Gallery of Art and several other institutions from around the world. Mirador is unique in that it allows a user to open multiple images in the same workspace to compare side-by-side and even draw annotations to highlight and describe regions of an image.  You can try Mirador at with any image that has the IIIF logo.  Below is a video of how to open a Stanford IIIF image and compare to a similar image in Oxford’s Digital Bodleian image database, which is also IIIF-compatible.  


IIIF is a relatively new initiative, but is rapidly being adopted by the great cultural institutions around the world, opening up interoperable access to tens of millions of high quality images (maps, photographs, books, medieval manuscripts, newspapers, art work) digitized directly from original historical artifacts specifically to support scholarship. Many of these images are not easily found in more popular image resources likely Google Images and Flickr. Tools like Mirador make it easier for scholars and students alike to assemble images from disparate online collections and engage in creative and novel forms of research and teaching.  

The Stanford Libraries has a systematic program of digitizing images, audio and video materials from our general collections, special collections and archives.  You can access these resources in the Digital Collections section of SearchWorks and at our online exhibits gallery.