IMLS Final Grant Report

Summary of Grant Activities

Omeka 2007-2010*

Beta launch: February 2008

  • Omeka downloads: 10, 643 (and growing)
  • Releases: 18
  • Plugins: 31
  • Plugins, built by Omeka community: 5
  • Themes: 15
  • Website visits: 608,784
  • Sites launched: 100 +
  • Presentations about Omeka: 50
  • Tutorial Workshops: 14
  • Screencasts tutorials: 30
  • Forum Participants: 1965

Omeka.Net*

Limited alpha launch: March 2010; Public beta launch: October 2010

  • Alpha Testers: 250
  • Current Users: 840
  • Websites Created: 637
  • Website Visits: 14,508

* Numbers reflect totals as of December 2010

When the Center for History and New Media (CHNM) first applied for funding to support the development of Omeka, few options existed for museums, libraries, and archives wishing to publish collections and narrative exhibits to the web as easily as one could launch a blog. Most museums had websites, but even still, institutions of all sizes lacked in-depth content. Even award-winning narrative-intensive museums exhibitions came packaged in multi-media wrappers making the content non-508 compliant, and impossible to share, bookmark, or Google. We believed that publishing accessible standards-based collections and exhibitions, containing standards-based metadata, could be accomplished by building a free, open-source platform that, like blogging software, offered an easy-to-use administrative interface, provided syndication for sharing content, extended the core functions of publishing collections and archive with a flexible plugin architecture and rich design theme API.

Since its public launch in 2008, Omeka has made significant progress towards its goal of making sophisticated, standards-based web publishing available to even the smallest cultural heritage institutions. Omeka has been downloaded over 10,000 times and is used by hundreds of museums, libraries, and archives to display collections and build online exhibits. Among these are large and venerable institutions like the Smithsonian Institution and the Newberry Library as well as smaller, less renowned organizations like the Merchant’s House Museum and the Upper Ringwood (New Jersey) Public Library. These smaller institutions have used Omeka to build their own award-winning projects, such as Digital Amherst, a project of the Jones Public Library in Amherst, Massachusetts that recently won an award for best use of cutting-edge technology from the ALA’s Program on America’s Libraries for the 21st Century. Omeka itself was recognized by a blue-ribbon panel of leading technologists and Internet pioneers who awarded Omeka a Mellon Award for Technology Collaboration in December 2008. Available as a server installable download, as of October 2010 Omeka is also available as a low- or no-cost subscription web service at Omeka.net.

In our 2007 proposal, we identified three primary needs of museums and cultural heritage sites that CHNM addressed in the building and launching of the Omeka project:

  1. Museums, libraries, and archives, need low-cost and easy-to-use systems for publishing web content.
    • Outcome: Omeka is a free and open source (written for Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP and released under the GPL) platform designed with the non-IT specialist in mind allowing users to focus on content and interpretation rather than programming. Omeka’s interface design appeals to users working at institutions of all sizes, which has led to an increased online presence of a diverse group of institutions from small historical societies and local libraries to a consortium of Smithsonian museums. The software will always remain free for downloading. We recently launched a free and fee-based hosted service at Omeka.net that requires no File Transfer Protocol (FTP) access or knowledge of server technology.
  2. Museums need standards-based, interoperable systems that allow them to share and use digital content in multiple contexts.
    • Outcome: Omeka provides unqualified Dublin Core Metadata standards for items and public design theme templates adhere to web design standards allowing Omeka users to design a fully accessible online exhibition efficiently. Omeka sites use this DC metadata schema to communicate with other systems. Each site can serve collections data in several output formats, including Atom, DCmes-XML, Json, Omeka-Json, Omeka-XML, RSS2, and OAI-PMH, which promote and encourage re-use and sharing of content. By conforming to internationally-recognized metadata standards and offering a variety of output formats, Omeka gives its users freedom to use that data in different ways without being locked into specific platforms or vendor-specific schema. Once collection materials are loaded into or shared through Omeka, the items may be reused in multiple contexts without requiring redundant data entry.
  3. Museums need systems that allow them to engage their publics and build communities around objects.
    • Outcome: Omeka offers museums, libraries, and archives easy ways to push content to their online visitors through feeds and rotating featured items and exhibits on the homepage, while also giving visitors opportunities to contribute content to a museum’s digital collections, comment on items, or share museum object data with a visitor’s personal social networks.