Omeka is an open-source website platform for creating and viewing digital collections comprised of “artifacts,” including photos, videos, documents, or audio, among other formats. Individually or collaboratively build an online museum or library collection that can be curated again and again into multiple exhibits focused on specific topics or themes. The description and categorization of the content follow Dublin Core protocol, a system used by libraries and archives around the world.
Omeka streamlines the process of uploading and organizing artifacts that can be used and reused in different digital exhibits. Creating collections and exhibits with Omeka can help students understand the relationship between different artifacts while also providing a means to share this scholarship with the public. 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 exhibits can help explore and illuminate varied or even disparate perspectives on significant and perhaps controversial topics. Kelly Smith, a professor in post-Communist studies in the Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies in the School of Foreign Service, has students in her class, REES 577 Socialist and Post-Socialist Cities work together on the Omeka site called Digital Moscow. She said the following about working with Omeka: "I would say that the point of the assignment (and perks of Omeka) was that it allowed students to illuminate aspects of a complex place--the city of Moscow--over time. Students working in groups or alone chose their own lens on the city and built up the site over three iterations (so far) of the seminar. For me, the other reasons to make the leap to doing a digital project was so that students would have work that they could easily show potential employers and to push those with language skills to use more primary sources in their research."
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. As part of the Georgetown University Working Group on Slavery, Memory, and Reconciliation, the Archives Subgroup, lead by Adam Rothman, developed the Georgetown Slavery Archive, a public collection of materials related to the role of slavery in the history of the Maryland Jesuits and Georgetown University. By creating this public Omeka site and digitizing these materials, the Archives Subgroup has extended the impact of the Working Group and provided a venue for those impacted by the history to share their own stories.
Omeka exhibits can help explore and illuminate varied or even disparate perspectives on significant and perhaps controversial topics. For example, Maggie Little and Randy Bass asked students in Bioethics and Moral Imagination to develop a site that could serve as an “impartial resource of civil discourse” about the Obama Administration’s mandate that insurance companies provide coverage for contraceptives. The students created an exhibit to understand the policy, explore the basis for objections, and articulate the range of views among Catholics.
The Georgetown Library supports Omeka as a digital platform, in partnership with CNDLS. Check for upcoming workshops with the Gelardin New Media Center or reach out to the Digital Scholarship Librarian. Omeka can be set up on a Georgetown Domains space. If you have any questions, contact CNDLS. For a consultation on teaching with Omeka, including best practices, please contact CNDLS.