Omeka is a web publishing platform for all kinds of collections-based research. Users create and curate online exhibits of items, writing descriptions for each item according to a robust metadata standard called Dublin Core.
Omeka’s main components are items or “artifacts” uploaded by users. Items can be photos, videos, documents, or audio, among other formats. Omeka makes it easy to upload and organize artifacts and to use and reuse them in different places on the exhibit.
Omeka allows users to richly describe each artifact using metadata standards that adhere to the Dublin Core protocol used by libraries and archives around the world. These description fields can be customized to fit the needs of the particular exhibit being built.
Building an exhibit on Omeka requires selection, reflection, and ideally leads to the creation of a narrative that integrates the individual components into a meaningful whole. By leading visitors through a "guided tour" of contextualized artifacts, Omeka exhibits become vehicles for storytelling.
Omeka can be used to create exhibits of place that emphasize a particular theme. For example, Diane Apostolos-Cappadona had the students in her Mary in the Catholic Imagination class work with Special Collections in Lauinger Library to catalog depictions of the Virgin Mary in statuary, iconography, and rare books and manuscripts. Students then posted their photographs or other digital representations of those artifacts in an exhibit that documented the presence of Marian imagery on campus.
Omeka is also an excellent platform for capturing oral histories or creating an archive of memories related to a locally or globally significant event. By uploading audio files, incorporating transcriptions, describing the interview particulars in detail, and connecting the related oral histories together with tags or categories, exhibit builders can create a compelling oral history archive that captures individuals' experiences of pivotal or otherwise important events.
Another use for an exhibit might be a collection of artifacts that relate to a particular time or shared experience. Betsi Stephen's STIA class created their own exhibit that explored issues surrounding immigration. Students each uploaded one artifact, many of them photographs in the public domain, that they then researched thoroughly. They appended their reports to their respective artifacts, and they then created thematic collections like "Facing Forward," a collection of artifacts related to the possibilities for future generations, from their many varied artifacts.
An Omeka exhibit is an ideal tool for assembling group research about a particular area of the world. In a team-taught course by Professors Abusharaf (Doha) and Smith (Washington D.C.), students are creating an exhibit on the Horn of Africa. Their items and descriptions will form an ethnography and political study of the region, and could serve as an educational resource for those who wish to learn more about its role in history and current events.
To get an idea of the step-by-step functionality of Omeka, see the handout we have created to help students get started on class projects.
Mary painting: Mary and the child enthroned among the Saints Theodor of Amasea and George and angels. Encaustic icon from the end of the 6th century. Saint Catherine's Monastery, Sinai (Egypt) / K. Weitzmann: "Die Ikone"
WWII headphones: Lieutenant Peter Handford, a sound recordist with the Army Film Unit, poses with his equipment after the end of hostilities in 1945. This is photograph BU 8364 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums.