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Omeka Courses at Metro – Thursday, July 12

Metro is offering three classes on Omeka this Thursday.

Introduction to Omeka
Thurs, July 12  |  10:00am-12:00pm  |  $35 METRO & myMETRO; $40 Non-Members
This will be an overall introduction to using Omeka to publish your cultural heritage objects on the web.  We’ll cover the basics of how web publishing systems work, and where Omeka fits in that ecosystem, as well as how to add content, files, and metadata to an Omeka site.
Learn more & register at http://metro.org/events/216/.

Introduction to Theming with Omeka
Thurs, July 12  |  1:00-2:30pm  |  $20 METRO & myMETRO; $30 Non-Members
We will look at the overall structure of Omeka themes, from the default templates to the best practices for developing your own themes for Omeka.  This will be very hands-on, with activities to show how to override default templates, customize CSS and PHP, and write completely new template pages.  Some experience with PHP and/or designing themes will be helpful, but not necessary.
Learn more & register at http://metro.org/events/217/.

Introduction to Omeka Plugins
Thurs, July 12  |  3:00-4:30pm  |  $20 METRO & myMETRO; $30 Non-Members
We’ll cover the basic Omeka plugin structure and common techniques for creating plugins to accomplish various kinds of tasks.  This includes an introduction to the Model-View-Controller pattern, and how it is implemented in Omeka, as well as an introduction to Omeka’s hooks and filters systems.  Some experience with PHP, especially Object-Oriented PHP will be helpful for this session.
Learn more & register at http://metro.org/events/218/.

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Posted in News.


Summer Projects and Omeka

I had a fun this week talking to some people on the Commons who are taking advantage of their summer down-time by experimenting with Omeka.

Don’t you guys ever just kick back and relax?

But seriously, I hadn’t thought about Omeka for a while, and talking about it made me think again how great a tool it is to assemble research materials, and how many ways it can be used.  I’m not about to steal these budding Omekans’ thunder by spilling the beans about their projects – but I was struck by how each almost immediately gravitated towards Omeka’s crowd-sourcing potential.  Digital humanists realize how important collaboration is, and look for tools that can be used to harvest source materials other people may have.

So that led me to fool around with Omeka’s “Contribute” plugin (available on all Omeka.net packages), and discover how easy it is to set up a form where anyone can go to enter stuff into an Omeka collection.  That “stuff” can be files (i.e. images, docs, etc)  and supporting metadata, stories, or just plain text broken down into fields (Omeka’s default schema is Dublin Core, but that can be widened to include more specific fields, or can be used to work in conjunction with Zotero).  There is a built in Spam filter to ensure the contributor is a human being.  Contributions are initially set to private, pending admin approval.

Geo-location? Yup.  Once you install Omeka’s Geolocation plugin, your contributors can pinpoint places on a Google map associated to the records they enter.

Controlled vocabulary? Coming soon.  The Simple Vocab plugin is already available on the Admin side, and work is underway to control the contents of contributed fields, and eliminate the need for cleaning up the data on the Admin side.   The Scholars Lab at University of Virginia is doing great work developing other related Omeka plugins.  Check the following link for more information.

Tagging? I don’t see why not, but I couldn’t figure out how to allow contributors to tag their own entries, but on the Admin side, this functionality is very easy and powerful.

Posted in collections, user contribution.

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Tom Scheinfeldt, Executive Producer of Omeka

Tom Scheinfeldt, Managing Director of George Mason University’s Center for History & New Media (CHNM) will be speaking at the Graduate Center on: Stuff Digital Humanists Like: Defining Digital Humanities by its Values.”  Besides heading up the Omeka.org and Omeka.net, Scheinfeldt is project director for such high-profile CHNM projects as Zotero.

As Charlie Edwards (@cedwards) notes in her CUNY Digital Humanities Initiative post, Wednesday evening’s discussion will focus both on successful digital humanities (DH) projects and ones that don’t make the cut:  “By highlighting some of the things that do and don’t work in DH projects, he plans to isolate some common characteristics, and see if doing so can point us to a clearer definition, or at least understanding, of DH.”

For all of you embarking upon Omeka projects, looks like this will be an invaluable session to attend.  Hope to see you there!

Time & place: December 1st , 6:30pm-8:30pm, CUNY Graduate Center, Room 9207.

Posted in News.


Omeka.net Launches!

Just to let everyone know that Omeka.net launched its Beta version yesterday!  Two years in the making, this site offers five very reasonably priced hosting plans, beginning with the basic, free plan to a platinum plan (at $999.00 a year). The various plans offer increasing amounts of storage, numbers of sites, and available plug-ins and themes.  The Silver plan, called “best for most users,” offers 2 GB of storage, 5 sites, 7 plugins and unlimited themes for $99.00 a year.

Omeka.net is designed to provide a quick and easy way to set up digital collections without much technical expertise. Institutions can quickly create collections, collaborate on exhibitions, and share digital content.

I looked over the packages and was surprised to see that access to the CSVImport plug-in is not provided. I hope this will change. This plug-in allows users to take the exported metadata from non-Omeka collections, add image urls, and import it all into Omeka.  A very useful plug-in!

Omeka.net has been compared to WordPress.com – it offers the basics without setup and hosting headaches.  It will be interesting to see how it catches on.  For more info, check out Travis Kaya’s article “Omeka.net Takes Archiving to the Cloud” in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Posted in News.


Digitization in the Real World

Professor Kwong Bor Ng  of Queens College (@kbng) and Jason Kucsma of Metro (Metropolitan New York Library Council)  have edited a book which describes lessons learned from 34 small to medium-sized digital projects, including several at CUNY.

Full text of the chapter entitled: Digitizing Civil Rights: An Omeka-based Pilot Digital Presence for the Queens College Civil Rights Archive” can be found here.  Congratulations go to grad students Valery Chen (@valerychen),  Jing Si Feng (@jfeng), and to College Assistant Kevin Schlottmann (@kevinschlottmann) for their hard work on this project.

Professors Claudia Perry (@c2perry) and Thomas Surprenant, both from Queens College, GSLIS also have a chapter in this book entitled:  “METRO Success Story:  Waterways of New York Project“) which chronicles QC graduate library students’ on-going experiences digitizing a collection of vintage postcards from the Erie Canal, Champlain Canal, Hudson River, New York harbor, and Long Island Sound.  To read this chapter, looks like you got to buy the book, which is available as a download, or in paper.

Follow this link for the book’s Table of Contents.

Posted in News.


Omeka and Exhibit Building

In his 2008 article in Computers in Libraries, Andrew Bullen notes that digital repositories are good at storing and accessing images, but most lack a “coherent mechanism” to place their images in context.  Omeka addresses this issue with its Exhibit Builder plug-in, which lets admins select images from a collection, and craft articles around them.  This ability to enhance collections with supplemental text helps make Omeka popular in museums, schools, and libraries.

Building interpretative exhibits is time-consuming, but the effort opens collections to new audiences and new purposes. Instead of simply listing standard Dublin Core metadata fields and showing pictures, collections can provide a rich historical backdrop to help explain their images, or conversely, embellish articles with interesting photos.  The art of mounting digital collections is relatively new and not fully explored.  They can also be extremely expensive to put together, and open source alternatives like Omeka offer ways to reduce costs, as well as play around with old formulas.

The following two collections use Omeka’s Exhibit Builder in different ways. Lincoln at 200 has just two exhibits, each of which explores issues central to understanding Lincoln and his time. Mostly linear in nature, this collection is showcased on Omeka.org to demonstrate how Omeka can present historical periods digitally. There are 270 images in the collection, which may be viewed and searched separately. Only a fraction are used within the exhibits. Sections are shared between the two exhibits, and stories intertwine.

Digital Amherst is more non-linear, and lets viewers pop in and out of its exhibits. Built to celebrate the town’s 250th anniversary, this collection has twelve exhibits, each of which examine a theme. The collection is an on-going project, and is built from the archives and literary resources of the Jones Library.

The Exhibit Builder plug-in does not support media other than images, but expect this to change, as universities strive to enrich their digital collections with interpretative exhibits.

Lincoln at 200 and Digital Amherst show how Omeka can place collections of digital images in context.

Posted in exhibits.


Omeka, Scriblio and User Contribution

One of the cool things about Scriblio is that it lets people contribute to a digital collection. Scriblio’s a WordPress MU (multiple user) plug-in that’s being used by some small to mid-sized academic libraries as an alternative to the traditional OPAC (Online Public Access Catalog). Scriblio ingests OPAC catalog records as blog posts, and uses a series of “connectors” to enhance bibliographic data from external service providers like Open Library, Amazon, Google Books, and Library Thing. And it can be configured to publish user contribution, in the form of questions, comments, announcements, and course postings. Check out Scriblio in action Plymouth State University’s library Web site.

But as a simple content mangement system (if that exists), Scriblio is also being used for digital collections, and it has some features that’d be nice to see in Omeka. Developed by Casey Bison, from Plymouth State University, New Hampshire, its pilot project was “Beyond Brown Paper.”

Beyond Brown Paper...

I first heard about this at WordPress Camp NYC, and I found it fascinating how Bison built a digital collection about the Brown Paper Mill in Berlin, New Hampshire and managed to get the whole community involved in documenting how the mill affected people and how its closing changed the town’s history.

I feel Omeka is a cleaner way to mount a digital collection, but what are the complications of implementing user contribution in Omeka? I know that the Contribution plug-in addresses similar ends, but it doesn’t seem to offer a simple way to comment on an item. Instead its purpose seems to gather items, which isn’t bad, but requires a lot more administrative intervention. Anybody have any thoughts on how users can enrich a collection’s metadata?

Posted in scriblio, user contribution.


Civil Rights Archive on Omeka

Professor K.B. Ng (Queens College School of Library and Information Science) and two graduate students, Valery Chen and Jing Si Feng, have been working on an Omeka pilot project called “The Civil Rights Archive.” Still in its early stages, the project has focused on photographs by Mark Evans and Stan Shaw, both former students of Queens College. This is a just a portion of The Civil Rights Archive of the Queens College, Special Collections, which is curated by Professor Ben Alexander (Queens College) and which documents the civil rights work done by Queens College students in the early 1960s. To date, around 60 images have been digitized, and Dr. Ng expects to lead more independent studies next semester to continue this exciting project.

Posted in collections.


Postcards from the NY Waterways: 1898-1923

I’m currently working on a digital collection called “Postcards from the NY Waterways: 1898-1923.” It is part of my final master’s research project and involves migrating a collection of vintage postcards from a proprietary content management system called ContentDM to Omeka, an open source web publishing platform.

A trip on the Hudson River

The collection is courtesy of Professor Thomas Suprenant (Queens College). Son of a tug-boat captain, he traveled extensively around NY State collecting these postcards and has generously made his collection available to students of the School of Library and information Science at Queens College. In a course called “Introduction to Digital Imaging,” students have digitized, cataloged and preserved over six hundred postcards in this on-going project begun over five years ago.

I felt that ContentDM did not really do the Waterways collection justice. Its basic digital package is drab and unappealing. As manager of the collection, Professor Claudia Perry (Queens College) notes that customizing ContentDM is possible, but at a price that is prohibitive to most libraries and archives. ContentDM collections tend to look the same, and managing the collection has proved to be continuously troublesome due to unscheduled upgrades, outages, and poor support.

Thanks go to Dr. Perry, who had this idea for a research project, gave me access to this rich collection of historical artifacts, and lead me to investigate whether an open source Web publishing alternative such as Omeka can help make a collection like this come to life.

Posted in collections.


Omeka News

Jason Kucsma, Kevin Reiss and Angela Sidman have an article in the March/April 2010 issue of D-Lib magazine “Using Omeka to Build Digital Collections: The METRO Case Study.” One of the first studies about Omeka, it evaluates the platform’s merits as a web publishing tool. The authors use Omeka to create a directory of METRO’s digital collections called digitalMetro.

Kevin and Angela are both librarians at CUNY and members of the Commons.

Omeka.net is launching, apparently at the end of this month, and interested parties are getting on board. Omeka is offering free sites for digital collections kind of like WordPress offers free blogs. This is all kind of fuzzy right now, but we’ll see. Right now you can get on the list for a free site by following this link.

Posted in News.

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