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Online Exhibit Tools: Google Cultural Institute vs. Omeka and Other Open Source Alternatives


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Presentation given by Daniel Montes, Library Assistant in the UCD Library Research Services Unit, at the 2017 CONUL Annual Conference held in Athlone, Ireland on May 31, 2017.

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Online Exhibit Tools: Google Cultural Institute vs. Omeka and Other Open Source Alternatives

  1. 1. ONLINE EXHIBIT TOOLS: vs and other open source alternatives Daniel Montes (University College Dublin) CONUL Conference, 30-31 May 2017, Athlone
  2. 2. Summary •Introduction to online exhibits •Online exhibits workflow •Tool comparison: GCI vs Omeka •Other open source tools •Conclusions
  3. 3. Introduction to online exhibits - What is an online exhibit? A curated digital showcase of images, texts, video and audio organized into a coherent narrative with the aim of engaging an audience that is not necessarily expert. - Burcaw in “Introduction to museum work” (1975) distinguished between: - display = showing - exhibit = showing + telling - Format increasingly used for different memory institutions that are not museums.
  4. 4. Introduction to online exhibits (cont.) - In the era of information overload, “deceleration, simplicity, and narration have all been suggested as antidotes” (Kraemer, 2007) - Need of an effort to reinstate context without distracting: - Digital cultural heritage objects must not be isolated. - The exhibit must give access to primary source documents contained within collections but that integration must be flexible, not try to turn casual users into researchers. - Remove superfluous information = “less clicking, more watching” (Birchall & Faherty, 2016)
  5. 5. Introduction to online exhibits (cont.) - Types of online exhibits - Digital version of a physical exhibit - Physical exhibit complement - Independent existence - Technologies and online exhibits go hand in hand. - Some institutions like Wellcome Collection with its Digital Stories are innovating in this field, but are big institutions a model for others? - Good exhibits require time and dedication. Each institution has the challenge of creating a flexible and sustainable model for creating exhibitions, through workflow standardization (including the selection of appropriate technological tools).
  6. 6. Online exhibits workflow - The selection of a particular technological tool must be framed within a workflow: - Initial planning - CCU (Context, Content, Users) analysis - Peculiarities of our organization and benchmarking - Possible content: it is copyrighted? - Identify potential users and engage stakeholders - Schematic design - Outline functional requirements (general, content, spatial and temporal encoding, user interaction) - Selection of the technological tool - Other phases - Final design: storyboard - Technical implementation - Marketing - Evaluation - Maintenance - All the workflow must be reflected in a planning document or “exhibition brief”.
  7. 7. Tool comparison Launch in 2011 by Google. Launch in 2008 by the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University. It is a service/platform (through Google Arts & Culture). It is a service/platform ( but mainly a product/software to manage digital collections and exhibits ( It is used by more that 1000 partner institutions. 7 in Ireland, all in Dublin and 4 are CONUL members. Difficult to know the exact number of adopters. Used by Europeana or DPLA, and some libraries in Ireland. Also used by individual researchers to showcase their research. Not open source, free to use for non-profit but by invitation only. Open source, free to use. Don’t use an standardized metadata format. Use Dublin Core
  8. 8. Tool comparison - Functional requirements: general Requirement Google Arts & Culture Omeka Optimised for mobile devices Yes Only tablets Responsive web Yes Yes Guided zoom option Yes No Look and field customization No Yes Metric indicators Yes Yes Link to physical exhibits No Yes (with QR codes) Launch Need to wait a month for approval Flexible Visually appealing Yes Less appealing but possibility of customisation by modifying code IIIF integration No Yes API No Yes
  9. 9. Tool comparison - Functional requirement: content Requirement Google Arts & Culture Omeka Image resolution It must be high resolution (300 PPI minimum) with no margins High resolution is not compulsory Content licence Only copyright free or cleared content. Open licence Preferably open but flexible Downloadable files No Yes File formats Images: JPEG, GIF, PNG, single-image TIFF Audio: MP3 or WAV Video: YouTube No multi-page files like PDF No restrictions Minimum number of files 50 Not minimum Amount of narrative text Very limited No limited Translation of metadata and text Yes Not out of the box
  10. 10. Tool comparison - Functional requirement: spatial and temporal encoding Requirement Google Arts & Culture Omeka Layout Basic linear slideshow format. No branching or hierarchies. Two basic page layouts: the standard and the immersive: Possibility of complex layouts: Maps Seamless integration with Google Maps Choice of basemaps, including historic maps. Neatline plugin allows to tell stories with maps and timelines. Timeline No Yes Temporal animation No Yes
  11. 11. Tool comparison - Functional requirement: user interaction Requirement Google Arts & Culture Omeka Sharing option Yes Yes Comments No Yes Annotations No Yes Control the reproduction of multimedia Yes, but only in the standard layout. Yes Social media buttons Yes Yes Integration with eLearning platforms Yes (Google Classroom) Not out of the box Wikipedia integration No Yes
  12. 12. Other open source tools • Juxtapose JS to compare two images for highlighting then/now stories. • StoryMap JS to tell stories that highlight the locations of a series of events. • Odyssey mix written narrative, multimedia and interaction into a map driven story. Created by CartoDB and funded by the OKF. • TimeMapper mix timelines and maps. • Scalar to assemble media and text in a variety of ways. • Mukurtu is grassroots project. • Movio is created by the EU funded AthenaPlus project, also responsible of the DEMES Element Set.
  13. 13. Conclusions • Google exhibits are a good option to attract casual users, but not good enough to engage other users (e.g. researchers may want to create an exhibit to showcase their research to other colleagues). • Open source software can bring many benefits to libraries: e.g. creating and sharing plugins to extend functionality of Omeka. • The content licence policy of Google Cultural Institute can be seen as a disadvantage but also as an opportunity: any item in the platform can be reused to enrich your own exhibits. • Lack of a comprehensive catalogue or repository of digital exhibits.
  14. 14. Conclusions and recommendations • Online exhibits must be properly described: The Digital Exhibition Metadata Element Set (DEMES) ? • Libraries should embrace tools that are metadata driven and that facilitate interoperability and reusability (APIs, IIIF integration, etc.) • Institutions must have a sustainable model for creating and maintaining online exhibits. • Online exhibits have value on their own, not a sub-product. They should get persistent identifiers and be properly preserved.
  15. 15. Thank you