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Recipes for Generating CollectionBuilder-CSV Object Location Fields

The metadata CSV for CollectionBuild-CSV projects contains three Object Location Fields (“object_location”, “image_small”, and “image_thumb”) that are used to add downloads and display images of the items. These fields can often be filled using formulas while working on your metadata spreadsheet, taking advantage of external APIs or internal patterns.

This section presents example recipes for figuring out the fields for a few common items types / locations:

Example Paths for Self-Hosted Objects

See the Object Derivatives section for details of preparing a folder of image and PDF objects and generating derivatives using a Rake task. Following the conventions outlined will allow you to figure out where objects and derivatives should be located.

If your are hosting your objects inside your project repository (i.e. in the “objects” folder), you can use the relative path. If you are hosting your objects in an external folder (i.e. in separate server location), you will use the full URL to that location. For example:

  • “object_location”
    • for object in project: /objects/demo_002.pdf
    • for object externally hosted:
    • Recipe: + “filename”
  • “image_small”
    • for object in project: /objects/small/demo_002_sm.jpg
    • for object externally hosted:
    • Recipe: + “filename without extension” + _sm.jpg
  • “image_thumb”
    • for object in project: /objects/thumbs/demo_002_th.jpg
    • for object externally hosted:
    • Recipe: + “filename without extension” + _th.jpg

Path for YouTube Objects

YouTube video items are supported in Item pages via the video value for the “display_template” metadata field. Provide the full YouTube video link in the “object_location” metadata field. Use the API recipes below to fill in the “image_small” and “image_thumb” fields if desired.

The “image_small” and “image_thumb” fields can be filled in using YouTube’s image API. This API is not well documented by Google, but is used by many sites and JS libraries.

Basically, you can get four sizes of the default thumbnail, or four smaller thumbnails from different points in the video. You can use the domain “” or “”

Default images:

  • thumb 120x90,[youtubeid]/default.jpg
  • medium quality 320x180,[youtubeid]/mqdefault.jpg
  • high quality 480x360,[youtubeid]/hqdefault.jpg
  • SD 640x480 (not available for all videos),[youtubeid]/sddefault.jpg
  • max quality 1280×720 (or 1920x1080?, not available for all videos),[youtubeid]/maxresdefault.jpg

Auto thumbs:

  • default thumb, 480x360,[youtubeid]/0.jpg
  • alternate 120x90,[youtubeid]/1.jpg
  • alternate 120x90,[youtubeid]/2.jpg
  • alternate 120x90,[youtubeid]/3.jpg

For more control, you can use YouTube Data API, but it requires a key to access.

Path for Vimeo Objects

Vimeo video items are supported in Item pages via the video value for the “display_template” metadata field. Provide the full Vimeo video link in the “object_location” metadata field.

Vimeo does not have a documented thumbnail API. One option is to create screenshots to use as derivative images–if image_thumb is left blank, the item will be represented by an video icon.

Path for CONTENTdm Objects

The CONTENTdm API can be used to retrieve display images and file downloads from any CONTENTdm repository. To use the API you will need to know the “Collection Alias” and “CONTENTdm number” of each object:

  • The Collection Alias is a path assigned by CONTENTdm and can be found in CONTENTdm Admin on the Collections > Profile page, or by looking at the URL of the collection on the web. For example “” the collection alias is given after “/collection/”, so would be ui_ep.

  • The values for CONTENTdm number are included in your metadata by default when you export your collection’s metadata from CONTENTdm.

Once you have columns in your metadata for “Collection Alias” and “CONTENTdm number” you can use formulas in Sheets or OpenRefine based on the CDM APIs to fill in object_location, image_small, and image_thumb columns for different item types. In general, it is best to use IIIF for image objects and CDM “utils” API for non-image items.

CDM utls

This API is unique to CONTENTdm and used to get image and file downloads from the repository. CollectionBuilder uses these calls:

  • GetThumbnail - will provide a thumb for any object in the repository. /utils/getthumbnail/collection/alias/id/pointer
  • GetFile - provides a download link for PDF objects, /utils/getfile/collection/alias/id/pointer/filename/name
  • GetStream - provides download and playable link for video/audio objects, /utils/getstream/collection/alias/id/pointer


CONTENTdm supports IIIF API for images only (i.e. won’t work with an object that is a PDF file or video, etc).

IIIF standard looks like: {scheme}://{server}{/prefix}/{identifier}/{region}/{size}/{rotation}/{quality}.{format}

Which looks like this in CDM:

Get max size:

Get image info example:


CONTENTdm implementation of IIIF has some limitations:

  • using the Size parameter !w,h does not work, instead returns max instead.
  • using the Size parameter pct: with less than 10% does not work, and will return an error message.
  • if either pixel size used in Size parameter w,h is larger than actual dimension of the full image, it will return an error message.

Given these limits, we have used pct: in most API calls, since it is the least likely to break. However, this means that if the originals in CDM are abnormally large or small, you will want to adjust the % used in the theme.yml. With collections that have multiple scan qualities, this may still result in inconsistent image sizes in the visualizations and many require experimentation with the API to resolve.