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ME.Digital Humanities Institute: Week 4: Feb. 12-18

The Maine Digital Humanities Institute provides training and resources to faculty, librarians, museum professionals and others interested in digital humanities.

Intro to Omeka, plus a few words on Curatescape

This week we will focus on a general Introduction to Omeka, described by the CUNY curriculum as a "a simple, free web publishing system built by and for scholars that is used by hundreds of archives, historical societies, libraries, museums, and individual researchers and teachers to create searchable online databases and scholarly online interpretations of their digital collections."

Since I know some of you are specifically interested in Omeka, keep in mind that The Programming Historian offers tutorials in How to Install Omeka, Creating an Omeka Exhibit, and other topics. We are not reviewing those tutorials here, but they would be helpful next steps if you decide you want to dive into Omeka. However, hosting services like Reclaim offer one-click Omeka installation, which makes it really easy. You would need to learn how to use an FTP client to download/upload plugins from Github and into your server (she says breezily), but long story short, it is not difficult to install and work with Omeka. That being said, it certainly helps to call/email someone who can help you through the bumps.

A few words on Curatescape:

Also, Omeka is the foundation for building a Curatescape exhibit. Curatescape is free and open source and designed to work within the Omeka framework. (Curatescape has fee-based services that institutions can purchase, but it is very much a DYI application).

You don’t have to use Curatescape to make good use of Omeka, but Curatescape opens up more possibilities. (You may recall the Black Boston Tour highlighted in Week 1, which my colleague Jessica Parr developed as a class project with her students at Simmons College).

If you want to use Curatescape, you would first install Omeka.  

You would then download various themes (templates) from the CurateScape GitHub, and install them. (GitHub is the ‘home’ for Curatescape and its coding, and the ‘door’ to the home is open to entire world). You might find it useful to review the GitHub tutorial if you were going this route, although downloading is the easiest task in GitHub. (It’s the uploading and tracking changes that require more care).

Jessica tells me, “Make sure you use the download link at the top, to make sure you get the latest versions.”

Users can then move on to installing the themes, etc, installing them on their webpages. 

Also, Jessica says, “Just make sure that you set up the  ‘MagicLink’ piece (it's pretty intuitive) before you begin adding content to the Omeka side of the site. Otherwise, images and thumbnails won't map and display properly from your collections.”

Finally, if you have a WordPress site, you would create a menu that links to your CurateScape page.

I had specifically asked Jessica about Curatescape in the context of my Reclaim hosting account but I believe what’s below applies to any domain, once you get into the “guts” of your website:

“You should be able to have multiple applications installed on the same domain. When you set up the Omeka, you'll have the option to create an additional root that makes it an extension of your website. i.e. So, it won't be an integrated page in the same sense as the other Wordpress pages, but basically an offshoot of your domain that you loop back in with linking through the menu.”

For more details on installing and using Curatescape, see this recently created content guide:

Can Omeka replace or be used in conjunction with PastPerfect?

Finally, I know that PastPerfect archiving/cataloging proprietary program is used in many of Maine's small museums.  I'm not familiar with PastPerfect myself, but I know some may be wondering if Omeka can replace PastPerfect. I posed this question to my CUNY group forum, and a colleague noted that it depends on an institution's needs, as there are some things that Omeka cannot do, such as managing copyright and permission forms. Also,  PastPerfect offers other tools useful to workflow in a museum or archive, e.g. “a contacts database that tracks information about your contacts including membership renewals, pledges, financial gifts, and volunteer hours; bulk mailings and letters, envelopes, and labels, as well as email newsletters and membership renewals.”

However, if an institution uses PastPerfect as its archival foundation, it is very likely that they should/could export data from PastPerfect to Omeka via a .csv file (comma-separated value). For example, if an institution wanted to create a special exhibit using Omeka, they could work with resources and materials imported from PastPerfect.  





Omeka resources