Published October 20, 2022 | Version 1.0
Poster Open

Back and Forth from Boundary Objects to IIIF Resources: The Recipes of a Community-driven Initiative Specifying Standards

  • 1. Digital Humanities Lab, University of Basel


Back and Forth from Boundary Objects to IIIF Resources: The Recipes of a Community-driven Initiative Specifying Standards

Scientific poster presented at the DARIAH-CH Study Day in Mendrisio, Switzerland, on 20 October 2022


The exchange of digital objects and their associated metadata is simplified when these meet established standards, but the capture of all the (meta)information is still very much in tension, at the limits of resources, knowledge and indeed the underlying capabilities of given standards. These limitations can be translated into what Susan Leigh Star defines as residual categories and consequently the generation of boundary objects. The question of these non-standardised residuals within the cultural heritage and digital humanities fields is an iterative identification issue that institutions and individuals have sought to mitigate. 

Take for instance resources conforming to the application programming interfaces (APIs) of the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF). These are JSON-LD serialised objects duly specified and vetted by a community trying to break institutional silos. Of particular interest are resources compliant with the IIIF Presentation API which underpins what a Manifest is, i.e.:

a description of the structure and properties of the compound object 

which can be interpreted by a client and displayed to end-users, typically disseminated openly on the Web.

While on the surface or theoretically these IIIF Manifests, or compound objects, could be quite the antithesis of boundary objects, it remains to be seen to what extent IIIF-compatible resources revolve around residual categories and also from what point onward these Manifests have been at some point or revert to boundary objects, whether they are not well-structured or simply because the architecture and constituent software serving and interpreting them (known as viewers in the IIIF ecosystem) do not operate correctly.

Additional resources:


A verbose script of the poster is available on the author's website as a blog post, a short slide deck was created on the storytelling tool Exhibit and a IIIF Manifest of the poster is also available.



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Additional details


Participatory Knowledge Practices in Analogue and Digital Image Archives CRSII5_193788
Swiss National Science Foundation


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