Linking IIIF image infrastructure to the VKC data hub

The Flemish Art Collection (VKC) and meemoo (formerly PACKED for this project) have been working together since 2016 to create a shared data hub for (art) museums. Since the autumn of 2018, we’ve been developing – together with VKC, the Rijksmuseum and other organisations – an IIIF image infrastructure test set-up to make digitised images and associated metadata accessible for re-use via the internet.

What is IIIF?

IIIF (International Image Interoperability Framework) is a set of shared application programming interface (API) specifications, designed by university libraries, heritage institutions, museums and software companies to make images accessible and shareable via the internet. Various cultural heritage institutions have implemented IIIF to unlock their collections, and there are lots of experiments taking place around making images available and re-usable via IIIF.
Read more on CEST (only in Dutch)>

Making images and metadata accessible online

With the development of the data hub and the IIIF test set-up, we want to create a flexible and open information system. The aim of the IIIF application is to make digitised images and associated metadata accessible via a number of online services. This means people and organisations can easily re-use the content in their own applications – such as museum websites, visualisations in the public space, mobile applications and technical research – with most up-to-date content always available in a cost- and time-efficient way.


Together with VKC, we explored various technical components to build the IIIF infrastructure. The existing VKC infrastructure was also taken into account when selecting the components. We carried out the following activities in the first phase of the project, from 2018 to 2019:

  • Explored various IIIF image server components in the international academic and heritage world, and selected of the most usable ones for the compilation given below;

  • Compiled these IIIF components in an image infrastructure test set-up, complementary to the art hub;

  • Linked this IIIF image infrastructure to the VKC data hub in a test set-up;

  • Brief analysis of the link to the sub-structure;

  • Published technical information for the test set-up on GitHub and relevant national and international forums;

  • At the same time, prepared museums and other image suppliers for the required IIIF metadata.

Schema van de gekozen componenten voor de IIIF-proefopstelling, meemoo CC BY-SA
Schema van de gekozen componenten voor de IIIF-proefopstelling, meemoo CC BY-SA

Component selection

In the second phase of this project in the spring of 2019, we took our first steps – together with VKC, and other image partners – towards a smooth, efficient and automated method for unlocking the image content. We took the (technical) recommendations (the so-called model architecture) from the Blueprint for distributed image management (only in Dutch), which we had drawn up previously, into account for this.

The implementation of the IIIF specifications in online services is central to this second phase. These open specifications allow the standardisation and automation of interactions between end consumers and the applications in which images are visualised, as well as the communication with the underlying online services. We looked at various technical components for building the IIIF infrastructure. The choice of components needs to simplify the future image infrastructure management.

  • We opted for ResourceSpace – software that’s already used by a number of VKC partners to unlock their images – as our ingest component. ResourceSpace is a DAM (digital asset management) system that can be used to include the images in the test set-ups with associated metadata linked from the data hub;

  • We selected Cantaloupe as our IIIF image server because it can retain metadata embedded in the images in the derived copies. Cantaloupe ensures images can be exchanged via the IIIF Image API;

  • An image hub was developed to unlock the images and their metadata via the IIIF Presentation API (via IIIF manifests). This web application was created in the same framework as the data hub (PHP/Symfony);

  • The IIIF manifests are displayed in the Universal Viewer – an image viewer that can display IIIF manifests.

Together, these components formed the IIIF test set-up. Testing took place using 200 images from VKC partner museum collections. The adapted version of the art hub now unlocks images via the Universal Viewer through a link with the image hub.

Do you have a question?
Contact Nastasia Vanderperren
Expertise Officer