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Thing 54: Omeka

Page history last edited by Helen 9 years, 4 months ago

 By Ian Collins


Omeka is a free and open source platform for digital curation and web exhibits made by the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University. Creating a digital library or web exhibit is quite simple and can be achieved primarily through graphical interfaces. Some programming can certainly be done for some customization, but this platform delivers a lot of visual options and organization choices without ever having to leave the web-based dashboard. As a front-end, Omeka is definitely worth trying out as a way to enhance your digital collection and provides a more user friendly design interface in comparison to other platforms such as Drupal.


Omeka is good at:

  • Handling metadata- Works with Dublin Core and can be customized to handle your own custom fields or taxonomy. Metadata can also be imported in other ways such as CSV import or OAI/PMH Harvester.
  • Making an Exhibit- Picking up and creating a digital library is easy. This is Omeka’s greatest strength. A searchable, user-friendly library that actually looks good is achievable without really having to code. Setting up your library and exhibits for public or controlled access can all be done through graphical interface.
  • Customizability/Expansion: There’s an array of plugins that expand the capabilities of the platform. From Exhibit Builders to Geolocation for Maps to Bagit support, these plugins offer a lot of options to customize and connect your Omeka collections to your other archival efforts.



First things first:  For this quick tutorial you can use the thoughtfully provided Omeka sandbox to try some things out which is available here.

But, if you want to dive into the full version, get your IT people to install Omeka if you can. Hopefully they will be kind enough to and give you appropriate access privileges and help you setup the installation. (If you really have to do it yourself, the Omeka website has the best documentation on how to do so. But, be warned it can be difficult.)


1. Get a small collection of images together. (About five will do.)


Figure 1 (The Main Admin Page/Dashboard Page)


2. Add a new item

From the Main Admin/Dashboard page (seen above in Figure 1) you may add an item to your library.

Click the Items tab on the left side of the page.

This brings up the “Browse Items” page.

Click “Add An Item”

This takes you to the Dublin Core Metadata Fields for the Item. (seen below in figure 2) You can fill them out as necessary or populate via an ingest (via CSV file or OAI/PMH)

In this case we want to upload an image and then maybe add some metadata afterwards. Click Files in the left tab. Choose which file you wish to upload and click "Add Item".

NOTE: Be sure to click the checkbox marked Public under Add Item if you want users to actually be able see the item!

Clicking the Items tab on the left will allow you to access to any item you have ingested. (It also allows you to edit or delete them.)


Figure 2 (Add an Item Screen)


3. Create a Collection

Click on the Collections tab in the top toolbar, this takes you to the “Browse Collections” page. (Seen below in Figure 3)


Figure 3 (Browse Collection Page)


Then Click “Add A Collection” in the top left.

This opens up the ”Add A Collection” page (seen below in Figure 4)

You can add the Collection Name, description and other information. You may also control the public access and featured status of a collection.

Click “Add Collection” when you are done

NOTE!: One technique that might be useful is not checking the box and leaving your collections “Not Public” while they are under construction.


Figure 4(The Add A Collection Page)


Editing an Item.

Click the items tab.

Any of the items that you have added while following step 1 should be available if you click the Items tab.

As you can see in Figure 5 the photo we added in step one is still “Untitled.”


Figure 5 (The Browse Items Page)

Click “Edit” under the title of the asset

This will allow you to make changes to the item.(seen below in Figure 6) Things such as adding/editing metadata or even add a different asset (if you need to update the photo or add new photos as part of the same record.)

We can also move our item into the Collection we just made. As you can see there is a dropdown menu located right under the “Save Changes” button. Just select the collection you made and click “Save Changes.” 


Figure 6 (Edit/Add an Item Page)


4. Adding an Exhibit

Click the Exhibits tab on the left side of the main menu.

This will open the Browse Exhibits page when you can add exhibits or edit existing ones. (Seen below in Figure 7)

Click Add An Exhibit


Figure 7 (The Browse Exhibits Page)


This will allow you to enter the information and title of the exhibit you wish to create. It will also allow you to select themes or assign a description as necessary.

Down at the bottom of the “Edit Exhibit” page is the “Add Page” button.

Clicking this creates a new exhibition page where you can choose the layout of your exhibition pages. Omeka gives you a number of options.

Just click on the layout you want and title the page.

This will take you to anew page where you can add the photos we just uploaded into this exhibit (by clicking attach item) and add description or captions. (Seen below in Figure 8)


Figure 8 (Edit Exhibit Page)

You can add a number of pages (By clicking “Save and Add Another Page”) to your exhibition or just use one. It’s up to you. (Seen below in Figure 9)

In this case, we only need the one page so click “Save Changes.”


Click “View Public Page” to see your new exhibition!


Figure 9 (Edit Exhibit Page Content Page)


Advanced Study

There are a number of ways to customize your exhibition and collection via themes and plugins. Since the sandbox does not let you make changes to these features, I chose not to dive into it.

You can do so with a full version of the software however. I highly recommend consulting the Omeka documentation on this and trying a few things out if you can. It’s quite easy to add and activate both and expand your functionality and style!


Blog Prompts

  • What did you like and not like about Omeka?
  • How did Omeka allow you to explore your thoughts on curation and present your materials?



You can figure out a lot of Omeka via experimentation.


Omeka Homepage (which offers the software and documentation.)



The Omeka Sandbox (The login info is on the Omeka website)



A brief intro video on Omeka



Two cool things made with Omeka




The full documentation for the newest Omeka-



Omeka Developer Google Group



Using Omeka to Build Digital Collections: The Metro Case Study



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