Ponderings, Resources

NEA Fall Symposium

Friends, I was lucky enough to present at New England Archivists’ fall symposium “Archives in Action” this past weekend. The symposium took place on the gorgeous campus of Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island, and the presentation was all about creating online exhibits using free and open-source tools and software. I had the distinct pleasure to co-present on this topic along with colleagues from Boston’s Berklee College of Music, and all of our slides will be available via the NEA website. But I also wanted to share my stuff right here, along with some bonus links and maybe a thought or two.

My section of the presentation was specifically about using Omeka.net, which is a free exhibit creation site created developed by the folks at the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University. I really just wanted to talk to archivists about what they can do with Omeka.net, and share my experiences and *numerous* mistakes, erm, “learning moments” (that’s the kinder, gentler term for screw-ups, right?) Basically it’s a user-friendly, well documented tool; and for the bargain price of nothing…well you might as well give it a shot!

Online Exhibits on a Shoestring – Omeka.net

Galveston, Texas amateur newspaper 1873

Bonus Material!
The people at Omeka.net (and Omeka.org for that matter) have done a tremendous job of putting together resources about their products and comprehensive help pages, as well as project planning resources. I’m linking to some that I think are tops for archives thinking of using this resource.


I also wanted to include some of the work-arounds I was pondering out loud during my presentation: if someone is able to use these successfully I’d love to hear about it! Idea 1–You are on the free (limited space) plan and run out of space. You want to revise your site though, keep it fresh, add some new material. Try leaving the ITEM RECORD you created for the stuff you wish to remove with a note to contact library for image access, then delete the attached image/document/AV file. You’ll carve out a pocket of space to add new stuff while leaving the intellectual access for the item you removed. Idea 2–Easy contact form/analytics tool: use Google Docs to create a form or guest book or the like to embed in a Simple Page. The forms have built-in analytics so you can use that to make an effort towards metrics. Idea 3–Make sure to add the social media tool to your site. This makes it very simple to share your content with your users–make it part of your calendar/routine–image of the month or some such.

Final Thoughts…
One of the attendees made a great point to me after the presentation, asking why she should bother using Omeka.net when her state already provides an excellent collection sharing site. A great question! Many states now have active and well-supported programs for digitizing and sharing your history. In this case, the biggest point was that the collection I shared using Omeka.net was one that was national + international in scope, and fell outside of the parameters of our state history site’s local focus. So really the only way for me to share this material as a collection was by using a vehicle such as Omeka.net. If your institution has one or more of these kinds of collections, and you wish to share them widely, then a tool such as Omeka.net may be the right choice for you.

Good luck…and have FUN!