Images Application Profile

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This page is part of the JISC Digital Repository Wiki and is used to support the activities of a UK (JISC) working group which has developed a Dublin Core Application Profile for describing images held in institutional repositories. This work was undertaken within the JISC Digital Repositories programme and coordinated by Polly Christie and Mick Eadie (Visual Arts Data Service, University College for the Creative Arts). The Images Application Profile project ran officially from September 2007 - April 2008. At this time (August 2008), the Application Profile is complete and the various project deliverables are detailed below. However work will be ongoing throughout the coming year to achieve a level of take up by the Repositories community. As such these pages will be updated from time to time to take account of the community's responses, and further Profile developments may be necessary in line with future findings.


Use Cases

Functional Requirements


Application Profile

Community Acceptance Plan

A Note about FRBR and Images

Following on from a recommendation by the Working Group, our first task was to examine the SWAP use of the FRBR model to describe texts, and assess its applicability to image data. Essentially FRBR is a means of modeling the structure and relationships that exist in bibliographic records. It does this by providing a precise vocabulary to describe bibliographic entities, centred on what are known as Group 1 Entities, namely Work, Expression, Manifestation and Item. Work is an abstract notion of a distinct intellectual or artistic creation, which is realised through an Expression – another abstract entity, which in turn is embodied in a physical Manifestation, which is exemplified as an Item. To take the example of a text, the book Playback by Ronald Hayman would be modelled as follows [1]:

   w¹ Playback by Ronald Hayman
     e¹ the authors manuscript text edited for publication
       m¹ the book published in 1973 by Davis-Poynter
         i¹ copy autographed by the Author

Subsequent editions of the same manuscript text would become new Manifestations of the same Expression, and other particular copies on library shelves would become other items.

Although an output from the bibliographic world, FRBR is intended to be capable of modelling all library holdings, including images. Two initial questions emerged when applying FRBR to images: do the Group 1 entities Work, Expression, Manifestation and Item (in SWAP renamed Copy) suit images, particularly as regards the use of abstract notions for Work and Expression; and, can FRBR be used successfully to describe images given the often complex descriptions required to identify relationships images have with objects and other images. We concluded that FRBR could be used quite successfully to model some image types, particularly those that are the product of an artistic or intellectual process. For example, using the FRBR Group 1 Entities and their relationships as described in SWAP:


a piece of sculpture could be described thus:

   w¹ The Angel of the North
       e¹ Sculpture
           m¹ The Physical Sculpture
       e² Digital Still Image
           m¹ TIFF Format
           m² JPEG 2000 Format
       e³ Analogue Image
           m¹ Photographic Print
           m² Slide

Yet nagging questions remain here around the 'intellectual' differences that FRBR associates with Expressions. Is an image format migration really an intellectual difference that fits with FRBR notions of expression? Also, if other changes to images are deemed intellectual differences - say for example a colour filter placed on an image by an artist working on a digital artwork - this points to us, as developers of the profile, having to make decisions, and communicate them to users, about what of the thousands of edits one can make on an image can be categorized as 'intellectual difference' and therefore as new Expressions. There is a danger here, it seems to us, of over complicating the Profile, and ultimately providing a barrier to take up amongst the repository community . Also with this use of the FRBR model there is danger of replicating existing image standards like the Visual Resources Association Core (VRA), which already successfully describes the various forms an image can take, and their relationships with analogue objects. Our intention is not to reinvent or in any way replicate existing standards that are robust and heavyweight enough to deal with most image types. Rather we are attempting to develop a comparatively lightweight means of facilitating image searches across institutional repositories, working with existing image standards - not replacing them.

In the end therefore we decided to remove the expression entity from our model. In the IAP as it stands any change in an image becomes a new manifestation. This will have consequences perhaps as the IAP merges with other related repository profiles that are based on FRBR. Indeed it is doubtful that without the Expression stage in the model that the IAP is FRBR at all - although it remains very close to FRBR in all its other aspects. There will no doubt be more discussion to be had on this over the coming coming months as we move towards community acceptance.

[1] see “Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records, Final Report”, International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions UBCIM Publications – New Series Vol 19, 1998, p.23


Develop draft Functional Requirements (September/October 2007)

Develop draft ER Diagram and set of attributes (October 2007)

Develop draft Application Profile (November 2007)

Hold working group meeting to discuss the drafts (29th October 2007)

Refine the profile in line with working group comments (November/December 2007)

Develop simple cataloguing guides for using the profile (December 2007)

Liaise with the wider community (November - February 2007)

Develop plans for community acceptance (Ongoing throughout project and beyond)

Working Group

Julie Allinson, SAFIR, York

Chris Awre, Fedora, E-Services Integration, University of Hull

Jenny Brace, Version Identification Project, LSE

Gayle Calverley, Time-based Application Profile; Distributed Learning at the University of Manchester

Lorna Campbell, Learning Materials Application Profile, CETIS

Steve Charles, MIDESS

Richard Green, Persistent Identifier interoperability, University of Hull

Jessie Hey, ePrints, Electronics & Comp Science, University of Southampton

Pete Johnston, Eduserv

Graham Klyne, Defining Image Access, Image Bioinformatics Research Group of the University of Oxford

Tony Mathys, Geospacial Application Profile, EDINA

Angela Murphy, Consultant

Andy Powell, Eduserv

Rosemary Russell, DC Affiliate, UKOLN

David Shotton, Defining Image Access, Image Bioinformatics Research Group of the University of Oxford

Lara Whitelaw, OU

Grant Young, TASI

Karla Youngs, TASI

Jun Zhao, Defining Image Access, Image Bioinformatics Research Group of the University of Oxford


Following on from the project to develop an application profile for scholarly works (SWAP], the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) has recently funded through its Repositories and Preservation Programme, a series of projects to establish Application Profiles in the areas of images, time-based media, geospatial data and learning objects.

The work on the Images Application Profile (IAP) has been carried out for the six-month period from September 2007 to March 2008, and while the substantive project work is now complete and a draft Images Application Profile is in circulation, the ongoing job of promoting the profile to, and consulting with, the image, repository and metadata communities continues. To this end, JISC has funded a one-year post, based with the Technical Advisory Service for Images (TASI), to promote the IAP and work towards community acceptance.

The first task of the IAP project was to bring together a working group with representatives from a range of backgrounds comprising image experts, repository developers and information specialists [3]. The group met for a day in late October 2007. It has commented subsequently on various iterations of the project as it has advanced through an email discussion list and some further occasional one-to-one meetings and exchanges. As part of the community acceptance phase of the project, beginning in October 2008, it is our intention to open the discussion on the IAP to a wider Consultation Group. The core deliverables of the IAP project were: a set of functional requirements based on a set of defined user needs; a conceptual model; an Images Application Profile; and a set of easy-to-follow user guidelines.


Kick off meeting, 29th October 2007

Lunchtime Metadata Session at Open Repositories, 2nd April 2008

JISC Application Profiles meeting, 19th June 2008 Download Presentation (PowerPoint file)