Making metadata into meaning: digital storytelling with IIIF

Tristan Roddis, Cogapp, UK

Published paper: Making metadata into meaning: Digital storytelling with IIIF

This paper shows how to blend cutting-edge image technology with creative curatorship to deliver engaging digital stories using a COPE (Create Once, Publish Everywhere) content strategy.

An increasing number of cultural heritage organizations are adopting the API standards provided by the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) to disseminate their images and associated metadata.

However, the focus so far has largely been on the technical and data challenges that this represents, with very little attention paid to how these systems can be leveraged to provide enhanced experiences for users online.

In this paper, we look at ways that IIIF APIs can be radically repurposed to go beyond the simple descriptive representations of an image for which it is largely used by museums (e.g. catalog metadata, transcribed document text). Instead, we explore the idea of using them to present a continuous narrative (i.e. story) focussing on various regions within images.

We will take stories modelled in IIIF, and present them in a variety of exciting digital imaginings, using both established and bleeding-edge browser technology. These include the following:

– Linear Web page (“blog” style)
– Social media feed (deliberately delayed information)
– Slow looking (deliberately removing text)
– Interactive image (previous/next, plus freeform exploration)
– Automated image (using text-to-speech)
– Human storyteller (back to basics, with a digital twist)

We will demonstrate the range of potential uses with a variety of stories taken from different organizations, including the National Gallery, London, the Endangered Archives Programme, the National Portrait Gallery, London, and even a poem commissioned especially for Museums and the Web.

From this session, participants will be inspired to think of novel and innovative ways of telling stories using their collection images, as well as appreciating the potential of IIIF to make delivering these experiences that much easier.

This conference paper builds on previous prototyping and hackathon work that we have been carrying out over the course of this year.

There is a blog post that outlines the current set of experiments at and a fledgeling demo site at

If this talk proposal is accepted we will work to improve the demo systems, both technically and by adding several different examples of different story types from different institutions (see list in main proposal). We will also engage a museum professional who is attending MW18 to co-present by featuring their story. All outputs of the collaboration will be shared with the museum completely free of charge or obligation.