Universal Viewer

Finalist category: Arts and Culture Award

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Arts and Culture Award, Finalist, 2020

The Universal Viewer (UV) is a direct response to the challenge of making cultural knowledge accessible online. Originating at the Wellcome Library in 2012, it is now a community-developed open source project on a mission to share cultural content with the world. Adopted internationally, the UV is used to serve up some of the world’s most valuable cultural assets as high resolution, zoomable images, 3D models, PDFs, ebooks, audio and video.

The UV is used by hundreds of institutions and generates thousands of daily content impressions. Major institutions include The British Library, National Library of Wales, National Library of Scotland, University of St Andrews, Villanova University’s Falvey Library, V&A, and BFI, where projects have been developed in partnership with prominent companies such as Digirati and Mnemoscene. Its open source technology has not only been integral to the UV project, but has also been the foundation of many other projects increasing access to cultural heritage around the world. The UV offers a clean interface for viewing, downloading, embedding and sharing content, making access to cultural heritage materials a convenient and user-friendly experience.

The development of the UV is guided by an International Steering Group comprising a diverse range of public bodies, universities, independent projects, and commercial companies, which provides a unified strategic direction and sustainability to the UV Community. 

The community has grown around the Universal Viewer, one that has dedicated considerable time, enthusiasm, and resources to developing all aspects of the project to ensure its ongoing success. Above all, it is dedicated to ensuring the project remains open, and is recognised as an innovator in sustainable open source practices.

The project’s ongoing goal is to help cultural organisations of all sizes to share their content with a diverse audience while generating shared value for all.

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