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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.



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