Omeka.net is a web-publishing platform that is used to curate collections and to create digital exhibitions. Omeka.net is an offshoot of the powerful and popular content management system, Omeka (Omeka.org). Although Omeka.net provides the same functionality as Omeka, it is much easier to use and install, as it does not require the user to provide hosting or to look after their installation. However, it is limited in that using more than 500MB of space requires the user to pay for an account. Therefore, the free 500MB account is perfect for smaller projects, but for larger ones, it would perhaps be wiser to upgrade your account or to use Omeka.org.
Omeka is designed for the display of library, museum, archives, and scholarly collections and exhibitions and Omeka.net makes it easy to show off the items housed in your collection. You can even tell a story about an item using their exhibits plug in. The tool is useful for historians who wish to display key documents, archivists who would like to organize artifacts into categories, and professors, such as in English Literature and History, who want their students to learn about the multitude of choices that go into assembling historical collections.
Librarians would also find this tool useful for curating a collection that they want mounted on the web. One cool feature about Omeka.net is that it allows the user to digitize anything- physical objects, photographs, people…or even ideas! One cool example of the later is the Image of Research site that is shown here. The Image of Research is a multidisciplinary competition that celebrates the diversity and breadth of graduate and undergraduate student research at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Graduate and undergraduate students submit entries consisting of an image and brief text that articulates the connection between their image, text, and research. One of the semi-finalist entries last year is pictured below:
Another aspect of Omeka.net that makes it useful to librarians is that it employs metadata standards. In other words, it allows for complete control over how each item is catalogued in the collection. Objects in the collection can be cataloged with Dublin Core metadata fields and even georeferenced for display on a map. One example of how libraries have used Omeka.net to georeference an item in their collection is evident at Virginia Tech Special Collections Online. The map below showcases Richard Colburn’s travels using dates from his diary, which is part of their special collections (for an image of the map, see screenshot below).
Omeka.net is also relatively customizable. These sites come with a few built-in themes which define how the website looks including colour, font size, layouts, etc. However, unlike with other CMS’s, such as Drupal, for example, you cannot control every element of your site’s appearance (for more control over site appearance, users should install Omega.org). In comparison to Drupal Gardens, for example, another open source CMS that runs in your web browser, the options for customization seem quite limited – there are only a few theme options for your project.
Omeka.net also includes several plugins that would be helpful for librarians. A few of these include COinS (which makes objects in Omeka accessible to citations management software, like Zotero), HTML5 Media (to play audio and video), and Library of Congress Suggest (which will auto-populate fields with LoC authority and subject headings). For an open source tool, it allows librarians remarkable control over the items in their collection.
Overall, Omeka.net is a handy tool for librarians, archivists, historians, and digital humanities enthusiasts alike who want to dabble with Omeka software and try their hand at building and showcasing a digital collection.
Tool at a Glance:
- Free/open source content management system
- No installation required (runs in web browser)
- Ease of use
- Uses Dublin Core metadata standards
- Limited space for free account (500MB)
- Not very customizable (themes and plug ins)
“Visualizing the Flow of Knowledge.” Image of Research, n.d. Web. 22 July 2015. Retrieved from http://imageofresearch.omeka.net
“Richard Colburn Diary.” Virginia Tech Special Collections Online, n.d. Web. 20 July 2015. Retrieved from https://digitalsc.lib.vt.edu/neatline/show/richard-colburn-diary