Experiments in digital storytelling using IIIF

By Cogapp


About Storiiies

People have been exploring ways of telling stories about (or with) pictures online since the earliest days of the web. Up to now, the available technologies have been restrictive, hard to author and reliant on proprietary systems like Adobe Flash that are not universally supported. Recently this situation has changed dramatically with the advent of IIIF (International Image Interchange Format).

The examples here each illustrate a different way of telling stories about (or with) pictures.

Users don't need to download any special technology, screen layouts are flexible and responsive across a comprehensive range of devices. There are no non-standard technologies to become obsolete.

The exact same content can be viewed in different ways according to the requirements of the situation and the user's preference. Our engine currently supports five different modes:

  • Linear single page: a linear text that can be printed;
  • Dynamic click-through: a user-driven image tour with annotations;
  • Auto-run: an auto-run version of the click-through;
  • Auto-run with text-to-speech: text-to-speech audio generated from the manifest;
  • Broadcasting: a presentation mode that uses web-sockets, this allows one guide to give a synchronised, illustrated presentation to a group each following along on their own devices.

The content for each of the examples is specified in XML as an IIIF manifest. The examples here are hand-coded but an automated editing system is a straight-forward next step.

This site was originally created for a presentation at the IIIF conference at the Vatican Library in June 2017, and then updated for Museums and the Web 2018.


1. Holbein's Ambassadors

Hans Holbein the Younger, The Ambassadors from The National Gallery, London. An in-depth exploration of a single large-scale image.

2. Medieval Arab Horsemanship

Illustrations from Nihāyat al-su’l wa-al-umnīyah fī ta‘allum a‘māl al-furūsīyah from the Qatar Digital Library. Annotation of multiple source images in sequence.

3. Tarantula Hawk Wasp

The story of the tarantula-eating hemipepsis heros wasp from the Booth Museum of Natural History. Annotation of a scientific image using the same techniques.

4. The biography of a family portrait

Johan Zoffany's painting of the Drummond Family from the Yale Center for British Art. Annotation of a source image, conventional photograph and alternative views (infra-red, x-radiograph and ultra-violet) in one story.


Production and software by Cogapp.

International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF): details at iiif.io
Image viewer: Open Seadragon
IIIF image server: IIPImage

With thanks to the following institutions

The National Gallery
Qatar Digital Library
Booth Museum of Natural History
Wikimedia Commons
Nationalmuseum Sweden
Yale Center for British Art


1. Holbein's Ambassadors

Image: © Copyright The National Gallery, London 2018: REPRODUCTION RIGHTS Hans HOLBEIN the Younger Jean de Dinteville and Georges de Selve ('The Ambassadors') Google Gigapixel image, licensed for use on https://storiiies.cogapp.com/ in perpetuity.

The Ambassadors, National Gallery Online Collection

Text: Cogapp. Adapted from an interactive essay originally published in the Micro Gallery CD-ROM by the National Gallery.

2. Medieval Arab Horsemanship

Images: Public Domain sourced from the Qatar Digital Library.

نهاية السؤل والامنية في تعلم أعمال الفروسية Nihāyat al-su’l wa-al-umnīyah fī ta‘allum a‘māl al-furūsīyah أقصرائي، محمد بن عيسى بن إسماعيل الحنفي Aqṣarā’ī, Muḥammad ibn ‘Īsá ibn Ismā‘īl al-Ḥanafī, British Library: Oriental Manuscripts, Add MS 18866, in Qatar Digital Library

Text: Cogapp. Based on: A Mamluk Manuscript on Horsemanship, British Library blog post by Colin F. Baker, Lead Curator, Middle Eastern Studies (CC BY)

3. Tarantula Hawk wasp

Image: © Copyright Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove. Content supplied directly.

Text: Lee Ismail, Curator of Natural Sciences, Booth Museum of Natural History. Content supplied directly.

4. The biography of a family portrait

Images: Public Domain sourced from The Yale Center for British Art.

The Drummond Family ca. 1769, Johan Joseph Zoffany, oil on canvas. YCBA Online COllection.

Text: Cogapp. Adapted from Angus Trumble (2007-01) and Jessica David (2012-02), YCBA. Other material sourced from Wikipedia the Royal Bank of Scotland history site

To find out more about innovative applications of IIIF and other advanced image technologies please contact us via email or online storiiies@cogapp.com.