Slides from 2015 DHSI "unconference" session titled "Getting Started with Omeka." Slides are slightly tweaked / condensed from HASTAC Webinar slides used in early 2015 by Jim (see my SlideShare page for those slides).
Getting Started With Omeka (DHSI 2015 Unconference)
June 11th, 2015
Unconference Lunch Session
• Doctoral candidate in English at Northeastern
• Digital Scholarship Group Coordinator at NU
• Project Director of Our Marathon (created with Omeka)
• Twitter: @JimMc_Grath
1. Slides are here:
2. My Omeka Sandbox is here:
3. Official Omeka Sandbox:
Check out Omeka!
• My personal sandbox with sample files can be found
To log in:
• This is a basic Omeka install via Reclaim Hosting
• Neatline is not installed / other plugins not
• More a chance to see back-end of a basic instance
• Check out the Omeka sandbox as well
• Background on Omeka
• Why do you want to use Omeka?
• Omeka and Digital Projects
• Omeka in the Classroom
• Extended Discussion
Dan Cohen on Omeka
Omeka introduced in February 2008
by the Center for History and New Media (GMU)
“Projects such as the September 11 Digital Archive and associated
work with institutions such as the Smithsonian and the Library of
Congress made us realize how much work – and how much money –
it takes for institutions (and individuals) to mount high-quality and
flexible exhibits online, and to manage the underlying collections.”
“Omeka aims to simplify this entire process, save valuable resources,
and create a free and open platform that the museum and library
community, and anyone else, can enrich by developing themes and
What is Omeka?
• “WordPress for museums”
• web publishing platform for items, exhibits
• designed with scholars, librarians,
educators and archivists in mind
• aims to be easy to use & implement
• emphasizes curation and metadata’s role
in archiving and curation
• ability to contextualize items & bring them
in conversation with one another
• LAMP server required, FTP required, Hosted by you or
• Customize themes and plugins by editing server files
• Unlimited number of plugins and themes (download
• No server or FTP required (hosted by
• Basic (free) plan includes 500MB of storage,
1 site, 5 themes, and 13 plugins—including
Exhibit Builder, CSV import, and Simple
Why do people like Omeka?
• Classroom Instruction: collaborative or individual
exhibit building work; intro to metadata / archive
• Public humanities work: make content accessible
• Collaborations between GLAM (Galleries Libraries
Archivists and Museum) communities
• Can be used for short-term; ideal for longer projects
• Can host content on your own server space
• Can use Omeka.net versions (Omeka-hosted)
Advantages of Omeka
• Easy to create and update metadata
using Dublin Core standards
• Long-term aspirations: digital projects can have afterlives
• Exhibit templates are useful in classrooms
• Easy to geotag / use geotagging (creation of maps)
• Flexible (can create new pages / code via “Simple Pages”)
• Open Source
• Lots of documentation of work (Omeka Forums)
• Cheap (or free!)
Omeka and Metadata
• set of metadata standards
• rejects “siloed cultural memory”
• enables “radically open cultural heritage data”
• interdisciplinary work
• collaborative in nature and scope
Talking about Metadata with Students
• Important component of Omeka and its mission!
• Metadata as adding to historical record
• Metadata’s uses in surveillance / war
• Metadata’s role in students’ daily lives
• Metadata’s relationship to your particular class
• Stylistic conventions: decision or discussion
• Metadata can be more than just “data entry”
Omeka is NOT just for Exhibit-building
• Simple Dublin Core fields are a key part of Omeka’s value
• idea of creating “a love letter to the future” via metadata
• Learn more about Dublin Core / metadata standards!
• Essential that students have a sense of metadata’s value
• Stylistic conventions also important
• Documentation is online
• Collaborate with local / institutional metadata specialists!
Exhibits are Cool, Though
• Exhibit Plugin: design templates for students
-students / teachers don’t have to be web design gurus
• Neatline Plugin: Geospatial / temporal maps
-more of a learning curve, but worth it!
• Simple Pages: HTML and PHP, embedded content
-create your own pages / layouts / content
Advantages of Neatline
• Narratives that attend to space and temporality
• Demonstrate value of geotagged metadata
• Dynamic and interactive
• Map templates built in to plugin
• Ability to georectify maps (historical projects)
• Ability to “map” images
• Learning curve, but documentation online
Why did Our Marathon use Omeka?
• Our Marathon is a crowdsourced digital archive
of content related to the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings
• We wanted robust metadata records for content
• We wanted content to be accessible / live ASAP
• We wanted a space for exhibits
• We wanted to encourage educational uses of materials
• We didn’t have lots of $$ for web design
• We wanted the archive to go live shortly after the events
How did we use Omeka?
• As a platform for crowdsourcing (“Share Your Story”)
• As a space to feature special collections of material
(Boston City Archives, WBUR Oral History Project)
• As a space for student collaborations
• As a space for exhibits (created with Neatline)
Modifications to Omeka
• Modified the Contribution Plugin
-a need to make the contribution space engaging
-a need to contextualize metadata requests
• Cleaned up web design
-improved layout of site sections
-need to appease media / institutional partners
“One Boston” Neatline Exhibit
(created by Haverford College undergrad Nate Rehm-Daly)
Omeka at Your Institution
• Anyone already working with Omeka at your school?
• Library / EdTech Resources?
• Metadata specialists?
• Do you need server access? How will you get it?
• Do you want this hosted by your institution?
• Questions related to intellectual property
• Long-term preservation options (if relevant)
Omeka in the Classroom
• What are students getting out of this work?
• What are you getting out of this work?
• What are your collaborators getting out of this work?
• What happens to this work after the course?
• What is the scope of the project / assignment?
• Is Omeka the digital tool you need for this course?
Lesson Plans with Omeka
• How much of a role will Omeka play in a particular class?
• How does the use of Omeka help you achieve your course
• How might assignments that are not tech-heavy /
explicitly using Omeka benefit later work withOmeka?
• Is this an “Omeka” unit, or a unit about a particular topic?
• How much time will you spend introducing Omeka?
• How are you grading work done in Omeka?
• How might an assignment using Omeka lead to a larger
research project / future collaborations?
• Value of occasions for student work that circulates
beyond the classroom
• Exhibits as way of documenting what was learned
about technology AND content of course
• Challenges of collaborative writing and design
• “Failure” should be discussed / accepted
• Setting clear goals for semester AND goals tied to
momentum of larger project important
• Discuss how you’re using tools and WHY you’re
using Omeka with your students
• Have you used Omeka?
• How does Omeka compare to other tools?
• Can Omeka do [X}?
• Classroom Assignments
• Labor and Costs tied to Omeka
• Questions of scale: semester projects,
project prototypes, next steps, etc.
Other Examples of Omeka
Uses of Omeka
Isaiah Thomas Broadside Ballads Project (AAS)
Uses of Omeka
Digital Dos Passos (Amanda Visconti)