While WordPress still takes the cake for the most popular applications run on our servers, Omeka has become increasingly popular. This post will dive into what Omeka is, and what you can do with the platform, and showcasing a few examples of how the platform could look when built out fully. You can read more about the other applications we are showcasing, Grav and Scalar. I’ve worked with Omeka for a little while but only when troubleshooting issues to specific sites, I haven’t built out a site like Omeka before. I took this a chance to look at the site in depth.
Omeka is a free open-source web-publishing platform. While it is open for anyone to use, the platform is mainly used by libraries and museums to archive items within their collections. The developers wanted to create a platform that allowed groups like this to create their own archive of collections just as easily as someone could start a blog. Omeka started with the development of Omeka classic, then the developers launched Omeka S, a standalone version similar to Omeka Classic. While these two versions of Omeka are very similar, they are separate stand-alone applications. So you can’t use plugins and themes from Omeka on Omeka S and vice-versa. Omeka S has the option to streamline sites and more management features than Omeka Classic. Omeka allows institutions like this to create online exhibits to archive any topic. It has a relatively simple user interface– once you get the hang of the layout, it’s fairly easy to use. You’ll do most of the site building through the dashboard:
The main source code is standardized for each site but it is highly customizable based on themes and plugins used to build out the site. You can read more about installing themes and plugins in this article.
While I’m here, I’ll talk about three Omeka sites that are great examples of building out Omeka to archive events throughout history. The first is the Cork LGBT Archive. This website ‘aims to preserve, digitise, share anddisplay information related to the history of the LGBT community in Cork, Ireland.’
This site showcases several exhibits of events within the LGBT community, building off of Arthur Leahy’s collection that began in the 1970s. One particular collection that stood out to me on this site was the Gay Sweatshop- Blood Green Collection. This archive a two-night play called ‘Blood Green’ that was put on by the Gay Sweatshop, at the Granery Theater. In an item within the collection, that describes what it was like to get the play up and running.
Another great example of Omeka, is Making Modern America: Discovering the Great Depression and New Deal. This is was created during a class offered at the University of Oklahoma in the Fall of 2015. The course examined what happened during the Great Depression and the New Deal. Students created this instance of Omeka to curate what happened in Oklahoma during that time, and many chose to continue the project after the class finished.
One thing that stood out to me is how they incorporated maps within their collection. This provides a great visual tool to document where things took place rather than documenting each item through exhibits. The class also added their lesson plans to the site through PDF embedding.
The last example I’ll talk about today is Georgetown University’s slavery archive. This was created as an effort to document Georgetown University’s involvement in the institution of Slavery. But what’s unique about this specific project, is the blend of WordPress and Omeka. When you go to slavery.georgetown.edu, you’re brought to a WordPress site that shows what the project is and what they’re working on to document this portion of history.
But, the main archive uses Omeka. The slavery archive really goes into detail about how Georgetown and the surrounding area was involved with slavery. The collection itself is a repository of materials related to the Maryland Jesuits, Georgetown University, and Slavery in the surrounding areas.
There are so many ways to use Omeka and to document pieces of history. These three sites are great examples of how you can document specific communities and periods of history around the world, specifically the LGBT community in Cork, Ireland, the New Deal in Oklahoma, and slavery at Georgetown University.