Published March 10, 2023 | Version v1
Presentation Open

Community and Interoperability at the Core of Sustaining Image Archives

  • 1. HKB - Bern Academy of the Arts; University of Bern
  • 2. University of Basel
  • 3. University of Basel; DaSCH - Swiss National Data and Service Center for the Humanities


Long Paper:

An increasing amount of research is being done in open collaboration with a crowd, with some of these projects being understood as Citizen Science which is characterised by openness in terms of participation and thus offers diverse perspectives from different fields of knowledge. Similar projects include Ajapaik [1] for crowdsourcing additional visual heritage metadata, Corley Explorer [2] for collecting stories, sMapshot [3] for georeferencing images, or Historypin [4] and [5] for sharing local history.

In our paper, we discuss how the digital domain extends the physical sustainability of analogue archives through communication with the public. Our interdisciplinary research project Participatory Knowledge Practices in Analogue and Digital Image Archives (PIA) (2021–2025) aims to increase the use of image-based research data by developing participatory tools and application programming interfaces (APIs). The goal is to encourage the collaborative production of knowledge by interested communities. Data that is used is inherently more sustainable.

Our research is based on three cultural heritage collections of the Swiss Society for Folklore Studies: one focusing on scientific cartography (Atlas of Swiss Folklore, published from 1950 until 1995), a second from the estate of the photojournalist Ernst Brunner (1936–1979), and a third photographic collection owned by the Kreis Family (1860–1970).

The web-based tools we have developed allow citizen scientists to edit, enrich and curate data through a graphical user interface (GUI). On the one hand, we enable crowdsourcing in the usual sense through moderated metadata enrichment [6,7]. On the other hand, we also go beyond by enabling users to create open-ended narratives by creating their own sub-collections, annotating resources, adding perspectives by uploading their content, and collaborating with other users by launching open “Calls for images”. By giving many different groups a voice in curating their collections, participation can democratise the decision-making power of archives [8].

Collaboratively designed standards build the base by which individuals and institutions can participate by having unmitigated access to the data. We rely, in particular, on Linked Open Usable Data (LOUD) standards [9] such as specifications from the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF), a community-driven initiative that has developed shared APIs based on agreed-upon design principles for representing and annotating digital resources [10]. Implementing IIIF APIs into our research is a way of communicating specific values about sharing and open data practices as well as improving the resilience of cultural heritage data.

The software architecture is strictly separated into a headless backend that offers the potential to represent data in complex digital data models, various interfaces for communication, and a frontend framework that is capable of embedding tools for various types of applications. In a series of workshops and interviews with both academic and non-academic users, the project currently analyses the new demands of digital (and process-oriented) knowledge production.

Within PIA, we develop an environment enabling a digital workflow that starts at the original printed source and ends where experts and citizens enrich the data with their knowledge. The close dialogue between humanities researchers, archivists, and experts in design and software development, ensures a highly applicable solution upon which to engage in constructive criticism. By the transfer of archival methodologies and processes from the analogue to the digital domain, we create a sustainable aura for stored data. The innovative GUI and the integration of APIs encourage collaboration with the public and, thus, a variety of open-ended interpretive perspectives.

The sustainability of data and digital tools is closely related to the application; we go beyond open data by demonstrating the power of standardised APIs. The possibility to enrich data makes data sustainable and increases the attraction of digital infrastructures.


This abstract is also documented in the DHNB 2023 Book of Abstracts ( and a long paper with the same title has been published in the conference proceedings (


DHNB 2023 - Community and Interoperability at the Core of Sustaining Image Archives.pdf

Additional details

Related works

Is part of
Book: 10.5281/zenodo.7670463 (DOI)
Is supplemented by
Conference proceeding: (URL)


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