What is Omeka?
Omeka is a free Content Management System (CMS) used by archives, historical societies, libraries, museums, and individual researchers for publishing digital collections. Built by scholars, Omeka allows users to create searchable online databases and exhibits of digitized content. With Omeka, you can describe items according to archival standards (using customizable metadata), import and export data from other systems, and create many different kinds of online exhibits and collections. Omeka mimics museum organization, where holdings are divided into collections that can be publicly displayed and curated into exhibitions. Some large institutions, like the New York Municipal Archives or the Metropolitan Museum of Art, rely on all-encompassing CMS, such as DSpace and Fedora. These robust infrastructures can manage an extremely vast amounts of data, automate collections-based tasks and workflows, and facilitate communication between museum staff. Omeka can also work with this kind of data, because it harnesses some of the same core functionality as these proprietary platforms. Using Dublin Core, a Metadata Standard set that makes linked open data possible and collections more discoverable, Omeka can import collections from these larger (often expensive) platforms and make them accessible and available on the web. In other words, through Dublin Core, Omeka can talk to databases that store information about its materials.
In other cases, however, Omeka can also function as a stand-alone lightweight CMS. For people who have never worked in collection management, Omeka can be an entryway to learn the basics of cataloguing and digital archival work. It requires a fairly small set of metadata criteria to catalogue its collections and items can be easily moved between platforms.
Who would want to use Omeka?
Omeka is used by galleries, archives, libraries, and museums to showcase their collections on the internet. In addition, it is also used by individual researchers to catalogue their archival work, and teachers to facilitate pedagogical activities. Prospective Masters and Doctoral students might consider using Omeka as a way of learning the rudiments of content management systems, cataloging, archival research, as well as a sandbox to build initial prototypes of their digital archives and imagine more complex iterations.
Omeka has also developed a suite of add-ons called Neatline that allows users to build maps and timelines based on their Omeka collections. Neatline can be particularly interesting for researchers looking for alternative ways of exhibiting their findings and arguments.
How do I get access to Omeka?
There are two ways to use Omeka: you can download a free, open-source version of the server-side software at the Omeka.org homepage, or, if you don’t have server space or would just rather not deal with it, you can sign up for a free or paid “hosted” versions at | Omeka.net.
Where can I find more help with using Omeka?
- Stefano Morello, GC Digital Fellow and digital archivist, has put together a very helpful workshop on getting started with Omeka.
- Official Omeka.net help guide, forums (Omeka Classic, Omeka S) and documentation (Omeka Classic, Omeka S).
- Omeka Gym: an Omeka-based tutorial for building collections.
- Programming Historian Tutorials
What are some projects built with Omeka?
View some sample Omeka sites here.