Paper 38

2018 Washington conference submission

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An Excellent Repository of Universal and Changeable Things

Patrick Cuba - Walter J. Ong, S.J. Center for Digital Humanities (United States), Bryan Haberberger - Walter J. Ong, S.J. Center for Digital Humanities (United States)

Abstract: Digital tools that allow institutions to work within the IIIF ecosystem have been mushrooming as
generous and prescient vendors have built in support to DAMS, major institutions have anticipated
and responded to user demand for digitized and accessible resources, and software communities have
designed and built utilities and viewers for the wave of IIIF objects tumbling into the common
spaces of the Internet. Missing from this explosion of functionality is the innovative space for
singular projects, independent scholarship, or truly open access and discoverability. The Walter J.
Ong, S.J. Center for Digital Humanities (OngCDH) now offers a completely open and public service to
the scholarly community that will allow large institutions and applications to develop new
functionality more quickly, raise the level of projects possible by smaller institutions with fewer
resources, and encourage individual scholars to utilize the vast array of DAMS, web applications,
and snippets and components by providing a reliable host for the Manifests, Annotations, and other
objects they create.

RERUM (reconditorium eximium rerum universalium mutabiliumque, is the project that enables web applications to exist without building a proprietary database and evolve an API to ensure interoperability and discoverability throughout the mythical landscape of Linked Open Data. Rightnow in RERUM one finds the expected objects—Manifests, AnnotationLists, Canvases—and one may discover the expected motivations—transcribing, painting, commenting—but there is also space for experimental configurations, such as Ranges that describe the physical structure of books in addition to framing the content and descriptive annotations that assert metadata description without marring the original resource. A repository of universal and changeable things insists of airtight versioning and authentication, but encourages (rather than enforces) strict compliance to standards and conventions, increasing the utility for prototypes projects and emerging practices. Under the Rerum umbrella, modular standards like Web Components and plugins for IIIF Viewers become stickier with functionality as forks (and new components) are being offered that have the connection to the
RERUM API baked in, reducing the overhead cost, maintenance, and time to MVP for any new project that relies
on annotation or interoperable IIIF objects for its visualizations and interactions.

Presentation type: 7 minute lightning talk to be given in a plenary session


  • IIIF and archival collections,
  • IIIF enabled collaboration,
  • Discovery of IIIF resources,
  • IIIF content communities (museums, manuscripts, newspapers, archival content, etc.),
  • Emerging use cases for IIIF technical specifications,
  • IIIF-compatible software and experimentation


  • public,
  • open,
  • free,
  • database,
  • annotation,
  • objects,
  • JSON-LD,
  • standards,
  • Web Annotation,
  • services,
  • components,
  • API,
  • repository,
  • interoperability