In June 2013 the British Library began a programme to develop a new viewer to show digitised Library content, suitable for use by researchers, learners and the public. Their aim was to create a consolidated infrastructure and consistent user experience to replace the disparate viewers and players across their web presence and in the reading room.
Following a requirements gathering and analysis exercise, the British Library concluded that the ‘Wellcome Player’ (developed by Digirati for the Wellcome Library) was the viewer most likely to meet their requirements for their diverse audiences. The British Library are founding members of the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF), and required a viewer based on these standards.
For an initial proof of concept, Digirati demonstrated the Wellcome Player consuming the BL’s prototype IIIF resources.
We then entered a multi-phase engagement, which saw the Wellcome Player become the Universal Viewer (UV). The UV implements the IIIF standard for presentation of image based material, as well as maintaining the Wellcome Player’s original support for audio, video and born-digital material.
The first phase resulted in the Universal Viewer supporting the IIIF Presentation API 2.1, and included many additional features such as multi-up for paged books views, enhanced thumbnail display, full control over settings, right to left and top to bottom, many accessibility enhancements, extra integration with British Library services for printing, and other features.
Later phases added more support for British Library use cases, described in this blog post.
Digirati and the British Library have continued to work closely with the IIIF Community in the development of the Presentation API version 3, which supports time-based media. This allows the UV to show more of the Library's sound and video archive, and now the Universal Viewer is leading the way in implementation of IIIF for time-based media. For sound and video collections, this opens up the same possibilities for search, interoperability and enrichment of content through annotation that IIIF already provides for image-based material.