History 428: Adventures in Digital History

HIST 428: Omeka

What Is Omeka?

Omeka is a web-publishing platform that allows users to easily store, display, and manage archival work. Unlike WordPress, the primary purpose of Omkea is not for blogging, but rather, to serve as an organized digital collection of materials. [1]

For this blog post, we are supposed to review both two Omeka sites and reference guides on using Omeka and discuss them on our blog.

Reading an Omeka Site

Before exploring the Omeka projects, I read the linked portion of the “Omkea Classic User Manual.” This manual reminded me that the easiest way to determine if a site is made with Omeka is by checking the footer message, which may say: “Proudly Powered by Omeka.” Otherwise, you can look for specific slugs in the “browse items,” “browse collections” and “exhibits” sections. [2]

After learning more about what makes an Omeka site, I took a look at the first linked project, the “Histories of the National Mall” site. [3]

Histories of the National Mall: Front Page

This Omeka site “interprets the National Mall’s rich past by offering historical maps, chronology of past events, short bios of significant individuals, and episodes in the Mall’s history.” [4]

When looking at this site, the first thing that I noticed was how different categories of the mall’s history are organized as separate pages that serve as one big landing page. Unlike a print source, this allows users to navigate sections that interest them at their own page, rather than follow one single narrative. 

Screenshot of Histories of the National Mall
“Histories of the National Mall Homepage.” Screenshot taken on January 20, 2020.

I also noticed the minimalist header image, which is a rendition of the national mall itself. Rather than command the whole page, this header image takes a backseat to the narratives under the “discover” section. 

Finally, I learned that the site is not only useful for browsing at home, but also, is intended to be used while visiting the National Mall as a companion site! This element seems particularly useful for children, who may enjoy the “scavenger hunt” sections of the site, such as the World War II Memorial Scavenger Hunt, that allow users to explore different memorials around the mall. [5]

Histories of the National Mall: Exploring Categories

After looking at the front page, I also explored categories on the site. After clicking the “explorations” page, I was taken to a list of “FAQ” style questions, as well as scavenger more hunt activities. The use of categories on Omeka makes projects feel more museum-like than book-like. [6]

Not only does this organization allow for greater freedom for users to navigate projects at their pace, but also, it allows for historians and other content creators to include a wider variety of sources that they discover, rather than having to limit their source base to fit one narrative. 

From Farms to Freeways: Women’s Memoirs of Western Sydney

After exploring the Histories of the National Mall page, I looked at a project called “From Farms to Freeways: Women’s Memoirs of Western Sydney,” as I believe that this project would provide inspiration for my group’s scrapbook digitization project. “Farms to Freeways” is an oral history project that combines maps of the Australian areas of Blacktown and Penrith with women’s memoirs to provide a more complete picture of life in the Western Sydney region during a significant period of growth. [7]

Farms to Freeways Screenshot
“Farms to Freeways Homepage” Screenshot taken on January 20, 2020.

Unlike “Histories of the National Mall,” this project was more streamlined, featuring a welcome page, transcribed and recorded interviews, short biographies of interviewees, maps, and items and collections. This project does a good job of preserving both individual and community narratives. [8] For my group’s scrapbook project, we could take inspiration from the way in which short biographies of each interviewee were included in addition to the interviews themselves.

Using Omeka Ourselves

I enjoyed looking through various Omeka projects. Before this course, I had not heard of Omeka, and had imagined that groups would complete projects using WordPress. While WordPress is a good medium, Omeka provides so many more options for organizing large amounts of artifacts and information. 

Finally, I bookmarked the articles “Up and Running with Omeka.Net” [9] and “Creating an OmekaExhibit” by Miriam Posner and Megan R. Brett. [10] These articles will come in handy when my group starts to build a digital foundation for our project.

Notes

[1] Omeka. “Getting Started.” Omeka Classic User Manual. Accessed January 20, 2020. https://omeka.org/classic/docs/GettingStarted/UsingOmeka/ 

[2] Omeka. “Getting Started.”

[3] Histories of the National Mall. “Discover.” Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media. Accessed January 20, 2020. http://mallhistory.org 

[4] Omeka. “Getting Started.”

[5] Histories of the National Mall. “Scavenger Hunt: World War II Memorial.” Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media. Accessed January 20, 2020. http://mallhistory.org/explorations/show/wwii 

[6] Histories of the National Mall. “Explorations.” Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media. Accessed January 20, 2020. http://mallhistory.org/explorations 

[7] From Farms to Freeways: Women’s Memories of Western Sydney. “Home.” Western Sydney Oral History Project. 2015. Accessed January 20, 2020. http://omeka.westernsydney.edu.au/farmstofreeways/exhibits/show/viewall 

[8] From Farms to Freeways: Women’s Memories of Western Sydney. “Interviewees.” Western Sydney Oral History Project. 2015. Accessed January 20, 2020.  

[9] Miriam Posner. “Up and Running with Omeka.Net.” Programming Historian. February 17, 2016. Modified November 18, 2019. Accessed January 20, 2020. https://programminghistorian.org/en/lessons/up-and-running-with-omeka 

[10] Miriam Posner and Megan R. Britt. “Creating an Omeka Exhibit.” Programming Historian. February 24, 2016. Modified November 18, 2019. Accessed January 20, 2020. https://programminghistorian.org/en/lessons/creating-an-omeka-exhibit 

4 thoughts on “HIST 428: Omeka

  1. I also looked at the Histories of the National Mall website, and I agree that the layout that they chose for their website is really engaging, a very different homepage from the “standard” way that other Omeka sites are put together that we looked at in class with Angie. The second website you looked at is really organized! It’s impressive to see the time they took to transcribe those oral histories.

    1. I liked how the National Mall site provided viewers with a lot of information without being overwhelming! And I agree, transcriptions are so important for accessibility!

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