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: http://omeka.org/files/docs/Featurelist.pdf
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
Omeka.net 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.
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)
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 Omeka.net, which includes one Omeka site that you can play with.
Watch the Omeka screencasts at http://omeka.org/codex/Screencasts
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.
Drexel University Archives
Presented at the MARAC Fall Meeting, Harrisburg, November 12, 2010
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
It’s open source!
It’s easy to use!
It’s easy to get started!
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
Admin interface is the same as in the
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)
Research a technology at Drexel
Develop a thesis, and find supporting
material in the Archives
Create a digital exhibition in Omeka
One Omeka account per project group
One Omeka “expert” per project group
Specialized scan request form
Access to scans
Using Omeka for student
Decide where the exhibits will live
Users need admin privileges to create
Force students to read the instructions
Not part of the grade? They won’t do it
Undergrads don’t think like archivists
Good research ≠ good exhibit
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
What to do when you get back
to your archives
Create a free hosted site:
Watch the Omeka screencasts:
Example Omeka sites:
Peter Ivanick set up the Drexel Archives
Kate Lynch customized the Drexel Archives
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
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
All other photos: Drexel University Archives and Special