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Omeka for Rare Books

In the Fall semester of 2011 we began to explore Omeka as a platform to expose the hidden collections of rare books in the Queens College Department of Special Collections and Archives. Myself and Justin Mancini, under the mentorship of both Dr. Ben Alexander and archivist Johnathan Thayer, used principles of archival description to create a finding aid and interactive platform for the college’s 14 volume Don Quixote collection. Our site continues to develop as a tool for promoting both rich context and wider access for rare books.

We have found that Omeka is a great tool for combining digitized content and exhibit-style presentation.  The basic Dublin Core metadata is sufficient for describing our materials, and the basic plugins such as Simple Pages and Exhibit Builder provide enough freedom to structure the site in interesting ways.

We have, however, included extensive outside code, such as Javascript and free slideshow software.  Most of these customizations were done in the PHP files of our theme.  This has allowed us to include interactive popups and mouseover effects that allow users to explore our books’ print history in unique ways.  We have also customized the look of our themes to go beyond a basic “out-of-the-box” feel.  We hope to add new content and features to the site over time – including a visual node catalog using the outside host (check out our early experiments in the print history exhibit – requires Flash).

Check out our site and give us feedback!

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Posted in collections, exhibits.