RKD Viewer: looking digitally at images for comparison and research

To date 200,000 images from our repository of visual documentation have been digitised. Phase one of the digitisation project deals with the collection of Old Netherlandish Drawings, which is only one section of our extensive collections. The first batch of images is now available through RKD Viewer, a new digital application that can be used in our Study Room. The app supports the format used for digitisation: IIIF, also known as Triple I-F.

IIIF stands for International Image Interoperability Framework. The format has been developed by an international community of mainly cultural institutions that wish to make images in their collections accessible to the world. Institutions such as the Getty Museum and the Yale Center for British Art deploy the same file type for their digitised materials.

Our visual documentation has become available in IIIF format in RKD Viewer, an app we have devised using an open source application called Mirador Viewer. The Viewer features various functionalities that extend the possibilities of analogue art-historical research.


What have we digitised and what can you do with the digitised images?

Many of our visitors will know the visual documentation at the RKD primarily from the green boxes that can be consulted physically. With the help of our RKD Explore database you find the images or themes relevant to your research. You then go to the shelves and take the box you require to your desk to examine its contents. The same procedure is followed using RKD Viewer: you start by locating the correct box, then the files and finally the images of the artworks you are researching. Not only can you view the images digitally, you can also retrieve the information recorded on the cards with the images.

Compared with analogue methods, RKD Viewer offers many extra capabilities. Deep Zoom, for example, enables close-up examination of images. It is also easier to compare items. You can view images individually or within a carousel slideshow format, allowing you to put up to 25 images side by side. In addition there are options for modifying images. For example, you can convert them to black-and-white so that certain details become more visible. Besides subjects and artists, the metadata include categories and periods. Additional information has been scanned separately so that it can be viewed with the images in the Viewer, just as with analogue research. All in all, RKD Viewer provides a more immediate overview combined with new possibilities for conducting art-historical research.


How do I compare images?

1. Click on an image you have found in RKD Viewer. The image will open in a new tab called ‘Mirador Viewer’. Stay in this tab. You have now opened a single image for study.
2. Click on ‘Pas layout aan’ (‘Change layout’) in the top right corner. Now choose a number of images you want to examine. This will open up a row of windows featuring the message ‘Voeg item toe’ (‘Add item’).
3. Return to the ‘RKD Viewer’ tab.
4. Select a new image you want to study. Hold the cursor over the image until the icon appears, then drag the image to the ‘Mirador Viewer’. Drop the item in the window in which you want it to appear. The active window will show the message ‘Laat hier object vallen om te laden’ (‘Drop item here to load’) and the image will then open.
5. You can now view multiple images simultaneously.

In RKD Viewer you can also place IIIF images from external collections including the Getty Museum and Yale Center for British Art by searching their digital collections and dragging the IIIF-icon of the images to the Mirador Viewer tab (as described in step 4).


Towards digital art-historical research

We are gradually digitising all our collections. This means that more and more of our images and cards will be available digitally only, and no longer in analogue form in our Study Room. Do come and try out the RKD Viewer for yourself at the RKD. It is a highly accessible, easy-to-use application. Our staff at the desk in the Study Room will be happy to help you navigate the new system.

As we continue the digitisation process we will keep you abreast of the latest developments via our website as well as LinkedInFacebook and Twitter. Would you like to know more right away? Then visit our digitisation pages with a list of frequently asked questions. If you cannot find the answer to your query, feel free to send us an email at