Paper 40

2018 Washington conference submission

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Breaking things down to build things up. How IIIF changed how we build.

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

Abstract: One of the great challenges for a center that builds digital tools are the base costs of developing any project from the front to back end. Building unique silos is not only scholarly self-defeating but financially wasteful. By leveraging IIIF and taking a module approach, The Walter J, Ong, S.J. Center for Digital Humanities is working smarter and progressively cheaper. As a case in point OngCDH adapted its TPEN (a digital transcription application) for the Newberry Library Digital French Paleography project. By looking beyond the first project to allow for other language-specific projects OngCDH reduced the cost to a third of the original project.
We considered our project in three phases. OngCDH changed the back-end of T-PEN (already IIIIF compliant) into web services. We then built a custom interface deployed in the University of Toronto Library’s Drupal site that contains the Newberry French Paleography project. Finally, we launched our open public annotation store that allows for storing those annotations produced in the Newberry French Paleography project. The combination of the three has allowed OngCDH to leverage the IIIF standard to solve the needs of the Newberry for a transcription application, but also addresses the future expansion of the Newberry’s digital paleography programs by creating a more easily customized and deployable interface without the need to replicate the back end for every instance, thereby reducing cost to maintain and to update all instances within the growing Newberry digital paleography space. OngCDH now has a prebuilt back-end and an initial group of web components that, when combined with existing web components built by others in the IIIF community, are already moving quickly and more cost effectively to new project solutions while continuing to maintain the principle of sharing data and product.

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


  • IIIF enabled collaboration,
  • IIIF content communities (museums, manuscripts, newspapers, archival content, etc.),
  • IIIF-compatible software and experimentation,
  • Training materials and documentation


  • collaboration,
  • project design,
  • reusability,
  • training,
  • education,
  • transcription,
  • paleography