Published on

What the heck is an Omeka? A presentation about Omeka for archivists

Published in: Education, Technology
  • Be the first to comment

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide
  • It’s o-MEH-ka, not o-MEE-ka. Rhymes with Rebecca

    Not to be confused with an opossum, an omelet, or origami
  • Omeka is produced by the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University.

    Quote is from the Omeka site:

    I think the exhibits and metadata are pretty central to Omeka
  • It’s free, I think we can all agree that’s good.

    Open source: you can customize it: write site and exhibit themes, write plugins, etc.

    Easy to use: if you can update a blog, you can create an exhibit. And if you can’t figure something out, the Omeka website has good instructions and tutorials and forums

    So easy, a cataloger could do it! Sorry…Anyway, it’s easy to get started, and you have a couple of options for how to do that
  • This demo site was set up by an IT person who had never installed Omeka before. He said it took him about an hour, and most of that time was spent waiting for things to install. The instructions on the Omeka website are very helpful.
  • Here’s the Drexel University Archives’ Omeka site, heavily customized by our web designer.
  • Here’s one of our customized exhibit pages
  • just went beta within the last couple of weeks

  • Omeka has really good video tours on their website, so I’m not going to try to walk you through the software. I just want to show what a site looks like out of the box, and then show you how easy it is to create content
  • Here’s the demo site I showed you before, but now it has some content in it. We recently had a zombie party in the Archives, so my site contains photos from that. There’s a search box for the site, and links to browse items, collections, and exhibits.
  • Browse items
  • If you click on an item thumbnail, you can see the item metadata, a larger version of the image, and a citation (generated automatically by the site)
  • Browse exhibits
  • Heres a page from an exhibit. There’s the exhibit title, the section title, and the title of the particular page. If you click on the thumbnail, you can see the item metadata for the photo.

    Okay, now I’ll show you how I put all the content in there.
  • First, you need some items. Omeka uses Dublin Core, and you can decide which fields you want to use and configure your site not to display empty fields.
  • Items can have multiple files. This is a good way to present, say, multiple pages from a book, or two photos of the same 3D object.
  • Create an exhibit: give it a title, a slug (URL component), credits, and a description. You can also set your exhibit to be public or private, so you can keep an exhibit hidden until it’s finished

    After you create an exhibit, you can add sections, and then add pages to those sections
  • Create a page: give it a title and slug, and choose a layout: lots of little images, one big image, no images all text, etc. Omeka comes with many layouts, but you can also write your own.
  • Once you choose a layout for your page, you can start adding items. Up top you’ll see thumbnails for all the items you’ve created. If your site has more than two items, click the Show Search Form link up top to search your items. To add an item to your exhibit, click its thumbnail and drag it down into an empty box, like this one on the lower right.
  • Add users, delete users, and give them a role, which determines how much they can edit on the site.
  • Download a theme from the Omeka site, upload it to the right directory on your website, and it’ll show up on the themes page, where you can select it to activate it. You can also write your own theme, and Omeka comes with a few themes pre-installed.
  • Like with themes, download them from the Omeka site and put them in the right directory. Need to click the button to install, may need to configure them (through the admin interface) before they work. Again, you can also write your own, and Omeka comes with a few pre-installed.
  • Now that I’ve told you how Omeka works, I’ll talk about what you can do with it
  • You can create digital versions of physical exhibits, expanded digital versions of physical exhibits, or standalone digital exhibits.

    You can use create collections in Omeka to organize items—by archival collection, by theme, etc.

    Make it your whole website: You can use the Simple Pages plugin to create pages (rather than exhibits) on your Omeka site.

    Map your items: The Geolocation plugin lets you create a Google map of your items.

    QR codes: QR codes are bar codes that a smartphone can read. You can put QR codes on a physical exhibit, in a brochure, anywhere you want, and link them to items in Omeka. Users can scan the QR codes and view your item pages.

    Solicit and accept content: The Contribution plugin lets users contribute files and descriptions, which you can then turn into items on your site.

    Student projects: Omeka is so easy an undergrad could do it!
  • If you were at SAA, you might have heard me talk about the HIST285 project before. This is a totally different presentation. I’m just going to focus on how we used Omeka for the project.
  • Here’s a HIST285 exhibit
  • Here’s another HIST285 exhibit. All this here isn’t exhibit text, it’s the junk you get when you copy text out of Word. As you can see, there was a range in the kinds of exhibits students created.
  • Each group was asked to choose an Omeka expert, who attended the training and received an account, but all members of the group were allowed to use the account

    Specialized instructions: I wrote instructions that only explained how to use the parts of the site they needed to use, and that specified our requirements, like which metadata fields to fill out and what to put in them

    Specialized scan request form: for each item that students wanted scanned for their exhibits, they had to fill out a form with fields corresponding to the metadata fields in Omeka. Some fields they had to fill out themselves before scanning, others were filled out by our scanning technicians, like the unique ID for the file

    Access to scans: Drexel has a service called DragonDrop where you can create playlists of files for people to download. We created one playlist for each group and put all the scans they requested there.
  • Decide where the exhibits will live: Do you want them on your website mixed in with the rest of your exhibits? Or do you want to create a separate Omeka site for them? The answer probably depends on whether you’ll need to apologize for the content. We had a group make an exhibit that said “Women were known to be inferior to men” and although I don’t think that’s really what they meant, it was public on our website for a while.

    Users need admin privileges to create exhibits: That means students can edit and delete content anywhere on the site. They could delete something by accident, or sabotage other groups’ work. Also, the site doesn’t prevent two people from editing the same content at the same time.

    Force students to read the instructions: Like I said, students can do a lot of damage. Most students never read those customized instructions I wrote. Next time we’re going to make them take a quiz to prove that they read the instructions before we give them an Omeka account.

    If they aren’t graded on it, they won’t do it: Students had to fill out the metadata fields on their scan request forms, but most of them didn’t bother to fill out the fields in Omeka, because they weren’t graded on it.

    Copyright matters: Students aren’t used to worrying about copyright in their academic work, but if their projects are going on your public website, you need to worry about it. The first time we worked with HIST285, it hadn’t occurred to us that students would put images from outside the Archives in their exhibits. We have plenty of photos of the dorms in the Archives—why steal them from Wikipedia? The second time around, we threatened to delete any outside images we found unless students asked for permission first—they still did it. What if students want to use public domain images not from your archives? What if they want to use photos they took themselves? Decide on your policies ahead of time, and don’t feel bad about deleting content if students have fair warning—I never do!

    Undergrads don’t think like archivists. They don’t share our sense of intellectual units—they might create two items to display two pages from the same book, or a single item to display two photos of the same person. They don’t understand why description is important, so they don’t provide any description beyond a title, and the titles are things like “Photo #6.” These are things you or the professor need to explain.

    Good research =/= good exhibit: maybe the findings are interesting, but if the evidence is all from memos and meeting minutes, it could make for a really boring exhibit. Also, students are used to writing research papers, so they need to learn about how to write a good exhibit. If what they’re really writing is a research paper to be hosted online, Omeka is not the best way to display it.

    ProfHacker has a really great post about using Omeka for student projects
  • Yeah, Omeka is awesome, and flexible, and easy to use…but not the best solution for everything

    As ProfHacker points out in his blog post, metadata is pretty essential to Omeka. If you’re just trying to put text and/or images online, there are easier ways.

    Yes, Omeka stores files and metadata. If you need to manage a small number of digital assets, it might be okay. But you can’t do a lot of batch editing, or provide different levels of end-user access, or manage any sort of workflows.

    We don’t have a DAMS at Drexel yet, but when we get one our plan is for it to supplement Omeka, not replace it. If your DAMS can export CSV, you can import from your DAMS into Omeka using the CSV import plugin
  • Whenever I go to conferences, I always see demos of software that sounds awesome, and then I get back to the archives and realize I have no idea what to do next. So, if Omeka sounds like it would be useful to you, here’s what to do when you get home:

    Play with the Omeka sandbox. This is a test account that already has items and exhibits in it, and the whole site is refreshed every 24 hours, so you can’t do any damage.

    You can create a free account on, which includes one Omeka site that you can play with.

    Watch the Omeka screencasts at

    Check out how other institutions are using Omeka at the Showcase

  • Contact me! I’d be happy to do a screencast and show you what using the site is like.
  • Omeka

    1. 1. Rebecca Goldman Drexel University Archives Presented at the MARAC Fall Meeting, Harrisburg, November 12, 2010
    2. 2. Omeka is…  a “digital publishing suite for scholars, librarians, archivists, museum professionals, and cultural enthusiasts” –Omeka team’s definition  a “system for storing digital objects (photos, pdfs, video, etc.) and their metadata, and creating digital exhibitions around those objects” –my definition
    3. 3. Why Omeka?  It’s free!  It’s open source!  It’s easy to use!  It’s easy to get started!
    4. 4. Host your own Omeka site
    5. 5. Drexel’s Omeka site
    6. 6. Customized exhibit and item pages
    7. 7. Sign up for a hosted site:  Basic account is free  Tiered paid accounts include more storage and customization options  Choose your own subdomain for each site: [yournamehere]  Admin interface is the same as in the local version
    8. 8. A basic Omeka site
    9. 9. Browse items
    10. 10. Item detail
    11. 11. Browse exhibits
    12. 12. Exhibit item
    13. 13. Create items
    14. 14. Add files to items
    15. 15. Create an exhibit
    16. 16. Choose a page layout
    17. 17. Add items to your page
    18. 18. Manage users
    19. 19. Change site theme
    20. 20. Add plugins
    21. 21. What can you do with Omeka (and its plugins)?  Create digital exhibits  Create digital collections  Make it your whole website (Simple Pages)  Map your items (Geolocation)  QR codes (Bar Codes and Reports)  Solicit and accept content (Contribution)  Student projects
    22. 22. HIST285 project  Research a technology at Drexel  Develop a thesis, and find supporting material in the Archives  Create a digital exhibition in Omeka
    23. 23. A HIST285 Omeka exhibit
    24. 24. Another HIST285 exhibit
    25. 25. Administrative stuff  One Omeka account per project group  One Omeka “expert” per project group  Specialized instructions  Specialized scan request form  Access to scans
    26. 26. Using Omeka for student projects  Decide where the exhibits will live  Users need admin privileges to create exhibits  Force students to read the instructions  Not part of the grade? They won’t do it  Copyright matters  Undergrads don’t think like archivists  Good research ≠ good exhibit  /teaching-with-omeka
    27. 27. Omeka is awesome! …but not for everything  If you need a quick-and dirty way to put content online…use a blog  If you need a quick-and-dirty way to put images online…use Flickr  If you need a digital asset management system…use ContentDM, or an open source DAMS like ResourceSpace
    28. 28. What to do when you get back to your archives  Omeka sandbox: Try_Omeka_Before_Installing  Create a free hosted site:  Watch the Omeka screencasts:  Example Omeka sites:
    29. 29. Contact me  Rebecca Goldman   215-895-1853 
    30. 30. Thank you!  Peter Ivanick set up the Drexel Archives Omeka site  Kate Lynch customized the Drexel Archives Omeka site  Ian Richmond set up my Omeka demo site  Rob Sieczkiewicz reviewed my slides (and made an excellent zombie)  Many Drexel Libraries staff beta-tested my presentation
    31. 31. Photo credits  Wooly opossum hanging by its tail, from the Field Museum:  asparagus cheddar cheese omelet, by jgodsey:  Origami stellated octahedron, by endolith:  Sewing for a production, c. 1930s, from the State Library of New South Wales:  All other photos: Drexel University Archives and Special Collections