Collections Information Integration Middleware (CIIM)

Collections Information Integration Middleware (CIIM, pronounced “sim”) is our in-house modular suite of software which sits between institutional data sources (such as collections management systems, library systems, archives and DAMS) and a range of publication end points (such as the institution's online web presence or an in-gallery display).  The system is currently used by a number of large institutions including:

  • National Maritime Museum
  • Imperial War Museums
  • Royal Armouries
  • Museum of London
  • Fitzwilliam Museum
  • Horniman Museums & Gardens
  • Jisc Collections

CIIM can be used in a variety of ways from simply exposing the contents of a collections amangement system to acting as a large scale aggregator across multiple institutions and collections.

  • Status: released
  • Planned work: Work on the Archives Hub and Art UK projects is enhancing the aggregation features available
  • License: Core modules are AGPL. Some value-added modules are released separately under a commercial software license, contact us for details.


As can be seen from the diagram below, CIIM has a variety of modules which are designed to accomplish a range of tasks which form part of an institutions digital strategy in a flexible way.

CIIM framework diagram

Core CIIM is the central module. Its processes and data model are customised based on the needs of each customer. Its core functions include:

  • data handling, validation and publishing
  • media handling rules, for example “allow users to view high-resolution zoomable images without allowing the end user to download the source image”
  • workflow configuration [not mentioned on the diagram]
  • the search index [the diagram references a SOLR index not ES]

Input Modules are a set of generic modules used to extract data from collections management systems. They:

  • extract data via harvesting (e.g. OAI-PMH)
  • extract data using standardised query languages and
  • are custom built to meet customers’ bespoke extraction requirements
  • the diagram mentions CMS API access and file export access, should they be mentioned here?

Custom modules include tools to extract data from sources other than collections management systems, including spreadsheets, Access databases and data dumps in XML, RDF and MARC formats.

Processing Modules allow an organisation to customise data to meet its specific needs. Processes are used to enrich or augment the base data to add value to it, they can be fully automated or manual. Procedures vary from the very simple, e.g. resize all images to specified dimensions, to the complex, e.g. find out whether an image is available for sale using the object accession number.

Specialised modules for processing data originating from, or linking to, a range of external systems such as library management systems, archival systems and digital asset management systems are available.

Sharing Modules offer options for sharing an organisation’s data with third party applications. These include:

  • an XML site map with static pages for each resource which can be used by search engines such as Google
  • an OAI-PMH target which allows data to be supplied to aggregators such as Culture Grid and Europeana,
  • an OpenSearch target which allows third party sites to easily search your content
  • a fully featured linked data application including RDF triple store and SPARQL endpoint for institutions who wish to engage with the growing linked data community within the sector
  • Replication module?

Presentation Modules manage the delivery of content and data to end users. At the most basic level the end user experience will include a fully featured search application combined with a simple content management system which can be styled to take on the look and feel of an organisation’s existing web presence.

At a more sophisticated level users are encouraged to provide feedback, to connect with one-another and to provide ratings, or to create personal groups and share content within the groups. There are even community tagging facilities for users to help with the data augmentation process by adding metadata to items.

For institutions who wish to have more control over the user experience, custom user interface modules can easily be developed and integrated into the CIIM framework.

User behaviour is tracked through integration with Google Analytics to provide valuable insight for decision making about content provision, areas for investment and areas for potential savings.