Turning Your Digital Assets into a Dynamic Imaging Experience

IIIF, the International Image Interoperability Framework, is an imaging protocol that has been adopted and championed by professionals in cultural institutions throughout the world, in which Gallery Systems is actively involved. But if you haven’t seen IIIF with your own eyes, or had its capabilities demonstrated for you, you might be wondering what all the excitement is about.

In this guide, we cover what the IIIF protocol is, why it was created, and the advantages it offers to museums and cultural institutions. We will also describe how IIIF functionality is integrated into Gallery Systems software solution, eMuseum. To further enhance your knowledge, you can read our FAQ section and access additional resources about IIIF.

What is the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF)?

Debuting in 2015, the International Image Interoperability Framework—better known as IIIF (pronounced triple-eye-eff)—was specifically created as a standard for cultural institutions, such as museums, archives, and libraries.

IIIF is a standardized set of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) that assist in enhancing collections of high-resolution images and digital assets through quick, cost-effective means. Harnessing the power of interoperability and the internet, these APIs deliver their core objectives by providing image-boosting features, including deep zoom and image annotation, and other versatile tools for viewing, modifying, citing, and sharing digital resources.

The Goals of IIIF

As a standard for transmitting images, the International Image Interoperability Framework upholds three foundational goals. According to the IIIF Guidebook, shared on the official IIIF website, these goals are:

  1. Offer an unparalleled level of standardized access to rich, image-based resources to worldwide academics and professionals in the museum, library, and archival fields.
  2. Support interoperability between image repositories by specifying a set of defined APIs.
  3. Provide a matchless user experience in relation to how images are viewed, manipulated, annotated, and compared, while maintaining the overarching goals of creating, documenting, and cultivating shared technologies within the global IIIF community.

The Benefits of IIIF for Museums and Cultural Institutions

Given that the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) was created with cultural institutions in mind, the benefits it offers museums and related organizations are numerous. As a standard, IIIF facilitates the sharing, viewing, and modifying of images in these useful ways:

  • Accelerate website development by using a standards-based toolset. IIIF-compliant image viewers provide an array of imaging features and functionality that organizations can use to help publish and share their image resources.
  • Increased flexibility for image presentation. Leverage the work of the global IIIF community to quickly add new features to your image publishing projects.
  • Showcase high-resolution images in new, exciting ways. IIIF is a dynamic addition to your institution’s online collections. For instance, it can allow website visitors to see incredible detail with deep zoom, compare object images side-by-side, and change the viewing settings to overlay X-rays with the original image to examine brushstrokes and other details.
  • Cite and share digital assets. Entire image collections or regions of images can be cited and shared with others, supporting both scholars and casual viewers.
  • Solve common problems. An active IIIF community of software developers are continually working to add additional functionality, providing solutions to real-world issues while continuing to expand functionality and benefits.

IIIF Specifications: the APIs

Within its technical structure, IIIF provides several APIs, including Image, Presentation, Content Search, Authentication, and Discovery. While each API performs an important function, institutions often choose to first implement IIIF’s core Image and Presentation APIs before implementing the others as needed.

Here are the unique functions each API provides:

  • Image API – Deliver requested images in a standardized way to match the user-specified characteristics of size, rotation, and zoom area.
  • Presentation API – Provide presentation metadata for images to specify how they are visually displayed, such as the structure, grouping, and layout of digital assets and groups.
  • Content Search API – Perform search queries within a transcription or translation text of a digital resource.
  • Authentication API – Manage the access privileges to your IIIF data. Create a click-through authentication system, supporting restrictions based on IP addresses or other parameters.
  • Discovery API – Locate and interact with IIIF resources using this forthcoming API.

IIIF and eMuseum

When you select a web publishing solution that provides IIIF functionality, the API implementation is handled for you. eMuseum, the cultural collections web publishing toolkit, supports the Image API and Presentation API, and will be implementing additional IIIF APIs in the near future.

Through the IIIF standard, images can be shown in greyscale or bi-tonal (black and white) gradients, reoriented by 90-degree rotations, and viewed with deep zoom, along with many other capabilities.

Visit the following eMuseum sites to see how these collections have used eMuseum to integrate IIIF functionality into their online collections:


What are some of the available IIIF viewers?
IIIF is implemented with several image viewers, including Mirador and OpenLayers, which are both used by Gallery Systems. Other viewers include:

Which institutions currently use IIIF functionality?
Cultural institutions around the world have adopted IIIF to share their digital media. To see the list of institutions participating in the IIIF community, visit the IIIF website.

Do institutions have to pay for IIIF functionality?
If you are an existing eMuseum client, IIIF functionality is included in your collections management software at no additional cost.

Does IIIF support time-based media and video?
Yes, when the forthcoming version 3 of the Presentation API is released, IIIF will provide support for time-based media and video.

Is IIIF compatible with 3D images?
3D image viewing is not currently implemented in IIIF.

How can I see a demo of IIIF?
Contact Gallery Systems to request a demo of IIIF.

Where can I go if I want to learn more about IIIF?
To learn more about IIIF, visit the International Image Interoperability Framework website for an extensive array of resources and the latest IIIF news. For additional information on how IIIF operates within Gallery Systems’ software, you can watch IIIF, eMuseum, TMS Collections, and You, a recent webinar presented by Danielle Uchitelle.

How to Implement IIIF at Your Institution

With the support of the Gallery Systems team of experts, implementing IIIF is a simple process. To get started, Gallery Systems clients who use eMuseum are invited to make a request through the Gallery Systems Community. If you aren’t presently a client, please reach out to us through our contact form.