Archive for the ‘Community’ Category

Omeka is for Art Historians

Thursday, May 4th, 2017

We recently wrapped up a small development grant from the Getty Foundation that allowed the Omeka team to work directly with a group of art historians to design three new themes and two plugins that address some needs for doing art history work with Omeka.

Omeka for Art Historians Working Group

Omeka team on the left, art history working group on the right

Beginning in October 2015, we created a working group of art historians already using Omeka, and convened the group at the College Art Association conference in February 2016. Over the course of one year, each working group member advised the Omeka team on plugin development and theme design. They did this by testing on a development site and responding through online surveys and email conversations.

We are grateful for the time and effort invested by the working group: Michele Greet, Kimon Keramidas, Barbara Mundy, Meghan Musolff, Miriam Posner, Daniela Sandler, and Nathan Timpano .

While we worked with a targeted group of users, all of the products from this grant are available for the entire Omeka community to use, and are available now.

themes

Kim Nguyen, Omeka’s lead designer, created 3 beautiful new themes:

Omeka developer Patrick Murray-John developed 2 new plugins:

  • VRA Core adds a metadata element set useful for describing visual resources
  • Editorial allows for feedback on drafts of exhibits

Specifications for the Editorial plugin came directly from needs articulated from working group member Kimon Keramidas who teaches with Omeka regularly. He wanted to offer feedback to students while they drafted exhibits directly within the Omeka platform. To help others integrate Omeka’s narrative building capabilities in a workflow that works for a semester-long course, Kimon wrote up a short case study. He offers a workflow for using Omeka, the Exhibit Builder, and Editorial plugins together.

We are very grateful to the Getty Foundation for their support of this initiative that was a direct outcome of their digital art history summer institutes. We hope that through these new themes, plugins, and documentation, we are contributing to a growing body of digital art history work.

Show Your Support for Omeka Today

Thursday, April 6th, 2017

omeka-team-full-2017

  • Have you posted a question on the forums, and had it answered promptly and politely?
  • Have you participated in a free workshop that helped orient you to DH work?
  • Have you had a project planning consultation phone call?
  • Was your feature request integrated into a core or plugin release?
  • Do your students create their digital project assignments using the free plan on Omeka.net, semester after semester?
  • Does Omeka serve as the core infrastructure for your key digital projects?

If you said yes to any of these questions, you probably have come to rely on Omeka for its stability, usability, and support.

Omeka is a reliable choice for so much digital library, archive, museum, and scholarly work is because of the maintenance and support provided by the core Omeka Team.

This dedicated group of individuals from the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media works hard everyday to maintain the core software, nearly 50 plugins, and a host of themes, all while being responsible for other major projects and development work. They test and document the software. They ensure that every update to the core, plugin, and theme functions together, so that it’s as easy to use as possible. They answer your questions–thousands of them–on the forums and the developer list. They respond to feature requests, and evaluate and merge pull requests. And, they continue to make the software better.

Today, on Mason’s Day of Giving, we ask you to consider making a donation to show your appreciation for the work of the Omeka Team, and to sustain the software into the future.

You might be saying to yourself, “I love Omeka, and I use it a lot. What should I give?” Here are some suggestions based on your level of use:

  • Single forum question answered: $10
  • Many questions answered: Recurring monthly donation of $10
  • Workshop participant: $25
  • Project consultation: $50
  • Feature request: $100
  • Omeka.net for free student projects: Recurring monthly donation of $15
  • Infrastructure for one key DH project: $200
  • Omeka is the backbone of institutionally or grant funded work: Recurring monthly donation of $25

Think about how the Omeka Team has supported your work over the years, and make your donation accordingly (using the “Other” category on the form). Also, take a minute to use the use the notes box to tell us how you use Omeka.

Thank you for your support of the Omeka Team and our work! #OmekaPowered #Give2Mason

Protecting Contributor Anonymity

Monday, November 21st, 2016

For many years now, users have turned to Omeka when they feel it is important and necessary to collect materials related to the significant events in the recent past or an ongoing situation that will likely be of historical import. We have always strongly supported these efforts, in part because the original impetus for creating Omeka developed out of our own work at the Roy Rosenzweig Center to collect and preserve the images, stories, and other born digital material related to landmark events in early 21st century.

For us, this work started with the September 11 Digital Archive and the Hurricane Digital Memory Bank. When the September 11 Digital Archive launched, Omeka wasn’t even a glimmer in our eyes, but by 2005 when the hurricanes hit the Gulf Coast, we were well on our way to engineering a platform that would allow users to quickly set up a site for collecting from the public.

The first evidence that people beyond the Rosenzweig Center would look to use Omeka this way came with the tragic shootings at Virginia Tech in April 2007. The April 16 Archive was our first hint that Omeka was going to become part of the infrastructure for archivists, librarians, and public historians who wished to respond to historical events.

At RRCHNM, we have a predisposition to openness. We strive to support open access to historical materials. We build open source software, and we are pleased to see the community make use of that software. Being part of the infrastructure comes with responsibilities for stability and support. Perhaps most important, it comes with a responsibility to respect and protect contributors.

Contribution OptionsFrom its first iteration, the Contribution plugin for Omeka provided administrators with a set of consent options for their participants. They could authorize that their materials be made public with their names, they could be made public but anonymous, or the materials could be contributed and not made public, but be available to authorized persons (using the researcher user permission level). Additionally, administrators could customize the kind of information that they collected from their contributors. For the most part, these options satisfied the use cases we encountered, since anonymity or dark archiving was an option.

However, the Omeka team, and the cultural heritage community as a whole, has become significantly more concerned about issues of privacy and surveillance. In recent years, libraries, archives, and individual public historians have created collecting sites that use Omeka to gather sensitive materials and gather them from individual who are likely to be vulnerable to surveillance.

  • In the wake of Michael Brown’s shooting in Missouri, Washington University in St. Louis created Documenting Ferguson to collect materials related to the shooting and its aftermath.
  • Then, in April 2015, public historians and archivists came together to create Preserve the Baltimore Uprising to document the events surrounding Freddy Gray’s death and the protests that followed.
  • In the summer of 2015, archivists and community members in Cleveland came together to create A People’s Archive of Police Violence in Cleveland.

Each of these projects work with populations that may be at risk for having their contributions used against them, and there are likely many more similar situations that we do not know about.

Even though the Contribution plugins could be configured to collect very little personal information, they required contributors to provide an email address. Our users have advised us, rightly, that even that level of personal identification could place their contributors at risk. (HT to Documenting the Now, and their thoughtful conversations on these issues.)

Anonymous Contribution SettingsAs a result, we have reworked the Contribution suite to allow for fully anonymous contributions. Site administrators who are concerned about protecting their contributors from retaliation and surveillance should upgrade to the most recent version of the plugin (see the Documentation for Contribution v3.1.0). Also, we urge site administrators to carefully craft the terms of service for their sites so that contributors have a very clear understanding of who will have access to their contributions and their personal data.

Finally, for collected materials that might include personal information that should not be made public, site administrators should consider installing and configuring the Redact Elements plugin. This add-on allows administrators to use regular expressions to redact text (e.g. phone numbers, social security numbers, email addresses) from Omeka metadata elements. While it’s unlikely that projects would collect this information on purpose, contributors might include it in a document or a story. Of course, if an administrator is unsure about the information contained in a contribution, that item can always remain in the repository but not be made public.

We hope that, in combination with clear policies and open communication with contributing communities, these plugins will help site administrators to create and maintain collecting projects that steward their materials and their contributor data responsibly.

Guest Post: Connecting Students and Special Collections

Thursday, August 18th, 2016

Stefanie Hunker headshot
Stefanie Hunker is the Digital Resources Librarian in the Browne Popular Culture Library (BPCL). She holds a Master’s in Library Science from the State University of New York at Buffalo and a Bachelor’s of Music in Music History from The Ohio State University and has been employed at BGSU since 1995. Her responsibilities include the maintenance and development of the BPCL web site and its various social media outlets, cataloging of items in various material formats, organization and processing of special collections and their respective finding aids, as well as collection development and instruction with the Dept. of Theatre and Film and instruction with the Departments of Popular Culture and American Culture Studies.

Omeka has been a valuable asset here at Bowling Green State University (BGSU) in the University Libraries (UL). We first began using Omeka to document our university’s centennial year in 2010 and we have expanded our use of it to display our digitized cultural heritage materials, to house our database of manuscript finding aids, and to showcase our work, more specifically the students’ work, with the digital humanities on campus.

Omeka works well with these digital humanities projects. Its Collections and Exhibits options makes it ideal for students to learn how to do metadata description as well as how to create a narrative around the artifacts that they’ve had digitized and uploaded into Omeka by librarians. The workflow we use for these projects has developed over time.

Before Omeka is introduced to students, they are given the opportunity to explore our library’s collections during one class period, during which they choose at least one artifact to be digitized and uploaded into Omeka. This artifact becomes the item they use at the next library session (called Omeka Day), where they are introduced to Omeka.

Before this session, the students have been entered into Omeka as student users, a role our web developer created to limit their activities in the system. On Omeka Day, once they are logged in, the students are taken through the dashboard options, the differences between Collections and Exhibits, then we look at the items they had digitized.

Librarians do not add metadata beyond a basic title, so the students are taught how to look at the digitized item and assign metadata describing that item. Each class, as a whole, has one collection and one exhibit. Once students know how to assign metadata, they are shown the Exhibit Builder. A significant amount of time is typically spent on learning how to build exhibits, since they will be available in our library’s Student Digital Gallery. Three exhibits are currently public, but additional exhibits are in development.

We plan to keep using Omeka as a digital gallery platform for various projects. The fact that it’s open source and has an active user-base, makes it easy to customize for our needs. We are currently in the planning stages for Fall 2016 projects!

Guest Post: “Can’t We Just Write a Paper?” Digital Galleries and Archival Research for Undergraduates

Tuesday, August 16th, 2016

Thomas Edge head and shoulders
Thomas Edge joined the Department of Ethnic Studies at Bowling Green State University as an instructor in 2011. Prior to that, he taught at Northwestern University, Trinity College (Connecticut), and Elms College. Dr. Edge is a proud graduate of the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, where he completed his doctorate in 2008. His published works include an examination of the racial politics and the 2008 presidential election, and a history of the NAACP in Charleston, West Virginia.

Two years ago, inspired by the work of my colleague Jolie Shaffer with her graduate students, I decided to engage my undergraduate students in archival research projects using the Omeka system. These projects, involving students taking Introduction to Ethnic Studies and Introduction to African American Studies, combined traditional library research with the creation of online digital galleries to highlight their work and analysis.

For purposes of these projects, students were divided into groups of five to six members apiece, and assigned a research topic for the semester. During our first semester of work, I gave one broad topic to the entire class. Subsequently, I found it was helpful to the students to maintain one overall theme, then assign each group a specific subtopic. For example, students this year in Introduction to African American Studies focused on the contributions and perceptions of Black women. Within that topic, different groups were required to look at their political organizing before and after 1950, economics and employment, music and literature, film and television, and the Black family. This helped minimize overlap in the artifacts they chose and exposed them to a wider variety of library materials.

Indeed, these Omeka projects helped address one of the chief concerns I have with my undergraduate students today: their lack of knowledge of library resources. For too many students, the library is solely used as a computer lab or as a place to find reserve materials. Through these projects, we collaborated with the Browne Popular Culture Library, the Music Library & Sound Recordings Archives, Government Documents, and the Center for Archival Collections. Each group needed to identify six artifacts that reflected their topics; the Library staff digitized those artifacts for the students, who then used Omeka to create their own sites around the assigned theme.

Students were encouraged to engage a wide variety of materials in their research, including scrapbooks, pamphlets, songs, sheet music, postcards, Census reports, television shows, advertisements, and comic books. They were not just required to find something that was connected to their theme, however. Groups also had to offer analysis of material culture. Here, I found it important to take some time and work with them on media literacy. With our students so inundated by social media, we sometimes assume a degree of media literacy that is often lacking. They are aware of how to find and consume media, but not always of how to analyze it. Working with students around themes of race and ethnicity, then, we set aside class time to discuss how to “read race” in different types of artifacts. It was important to emphasize that students could look for both positive and negative depictions of a particular group. While they were often able to look at a racist image and intelligently discuss what made it racist, at times they needed to be pushed further in analyzing positive imagery, including images that groups created themselves to challenge dominant discourses about perceptions of their identities.

When students first learned about the project at the beginning of the semester, many were intimidated by the idea of creating their own digital gallery. The Omeka system helped alleviate some of these fears. With help from our talented Library staff, the students received excellent training in how to use the program and regular support throughout the semester. In the end, the two biggest challenges had nothing to do with the technology. First, students needed to learn how to conduct real archival research, in which the topic is fairly open-ended and there is not one “right” artifact to find. Second, deadlines were a key. We now have a set schedule in which they are introduced to some of the materials they can use for the project; given basic training in using the Omeka system; assigned a hard deadline for requesting artifacts to be digitized; and returning to the library for a refresher course on Omeka. This leaves the students more than enough time to collaborate on their galleries, while also giving the library faculty and staff a chance to digitize the requested materials.

I have been quite pleased so far with the results from my undergraduates. As with any assignment, of course, there is a wide range of outcomes. The best work showed a desire to delve deeper with their analysis, from a comparative approach to Black women’s music that linked artists across different generations, to examinations of photography in the Black Panther Party newspaper that included a breakdown of gender roles and the use of color. My proudest moments, however, came from those students who were able to use these skills again in other classes, including classes they took with me. For every student who asked, “Can’t we just write a paper,” I have had many more who thanked me for challenging them and for giving them a real say in the content of their own work.

Introductory-level classes can do far more than cover the basics of the field; they can also imbue our students with technological and research skills that carry over into all of their future studies.

Guest Post: Omeka in Graduate Work

Wednesday, August 10th, 2016

Jolie A. Sheffer is Director of the Institute for the Study of Culture and Society and Associate Professor of English and American Culture Studies at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio. She teaches courses in American literature and popular culture since the Civil War, multiethnic American literature, American Studies, and literary theory and cultural studies.

Jolie Sheffer headshot

Like most of us involved in graduate education, I’m concerned about my students being able to find meaningful, challenging employment in a time where academic jobs are increasingly scarce. But even more broadly, I care about all of my students’ ability to communicate the skills and knowledge gained in the course of humanistic study to the wider world. I am tired of having a degree in English or History or [insert other humanities major here] serve as the butt of jokes about “useless” college degrees – especially since liberal arts disciplines teach the writing, critical thinking, and analytic skills that are essential to virtually all professional work in the twenty-first century. Those qualitative skills can be applied to any industry, and adapted to any institution or organization. Consequently, I believe that one of the best ways to prepare our students for “the real world” is to provide them opportunities to utilize their skills and knowledge for projects that are broadly legible and publicly accessible. Using Omeka to create digital exhibits has been a transformative experience in my pedagogy, and for my students.

I have used Omeka digital exhibits both as a supplement and an alternative to the conventional research paper in several graduate courses. Students in my classes—who are working toward MA or PhD degrees in programs such as American Culture Studies, Art, English, German, Media and Communications, Popular Culture, and Theatre and Film—created digital exhibits on Racial Representations in the Early 20th Century and on American Youth Culture in the 1960s . For these semester-long final projects, they worked with BGSU librarians and archivists to digitize primary source documents from the library’s special collections, and then curate them into Digital Exhibits using an institutional Omeka installation hosted by our library. In order to create a distinct identity, each exhibit was given a custom theme designed by an undergraduate student intern at the library, in consultation with the graduate students creating the exhibit.

The intellectual labor of the project was manifold and manifest: students researched a historical period using primary documents and secondary sources; they analyzed visual media for its ideological and social meanings; and they wrote explanatory essays to provide historical and cultural context for interpreting dozens of documents. But the project also demanded they communicate their depth of knowledge in jargon-free language, as well as create an easily navigable architecture for complex topics. And they learned a new software platform, and gained experience with a workflow involving more than a dozen other people from units across the university. In short, they had to demonstrate a range of skills and knowledge, including the ability to collaborate effectively to create something larger than any one of them could have accomplished alone.

Unlike the typical research paper, which disappears into a drawer at the end of the semester, my students’ Omeka projects live on – providing them meaningful evidence of their research, writing, analytical, technical, and organizational skills. The URL becomes a document that they can share with friends, family, and potential employers. Just as important, it helps them see the intrinsic value of their educations, AND its utility to life both inside and outside the academy. Truly, I cannot imagine a more meaningful way for them to demonstrate their intellectual development over the course of a semester. And I’ll never uncritically assign a research paper again.

Omeka developers are all over the map (in more ways than one)

Thursday, March 3rd, 2016

We recently put out an unscientific survey to get to know who our Omeka developers are and what we can do to help them. All the responses are greatly appreciated. We’re just starting to look through the information, but here’s some things that stand out immediately.

14 Countries, 4 Continents

omekaDevMap

This map only reflects the responses from the developer survey — we know from forum conversations, the dev list, and conferences that people in more countries are using and developing with Omeka. We are very gratified to know that Omeka is helping people in so many different places.

CTOs, Librarians, Archaeologists, and more

We asked about the job titles of people who are doing Omeka development work. Consultants, part- and full-time developers, and managers of different kinds are also in the mix. This is both gratifying and challenging. Gratifying, because such a diversity of people creating with Omeka is very much in the spirit and goals of RRCHNM and the Omeka team. Challenging, because there are many different audiences that we need to speak to, probably in different ways. Similarly, we asked how people came to develop with Omeka. Many of you are self-taught, while some are coming from professional training in some form or another.

Strongest message: Give us examples

We were not surprised to see a desire for more example code, but we were surprised to see how prominent that desire was. We’ll want to figure out what kinds of examples are most helpful — examples of using a specific function? combining functions toward a more general outcome? something else? The ‘recipes’ that we had for Omeka 1.5 were surprisingly popular, so that will be a starting point.

We’ll be posting more thoughts based on the survey results, and inviting willing developers to create some guest posts in this space about their work in the coming weeks and months.

We very much appreciate the responses, and all your work.

Patrick Murray-John
Omeka Director of Developer Outreach

Omeka Curator Dashboard

Tuesday, July 28th, 2015

Today we are featuring a guest post from an important member of the Omeka community, Jess Waggoner. After the creation of  the Grateful Dead Archive Online at UC-Santa Cruz, managed by Robin Chandler, the team saw several opportunities for new plugins to help manage launching such a large and involved site. Here, Jess writes about lessons learned about that project and the needs of a large institutional library’s data coordination and workflow management, and plugins that reflect that work.

Waggoner_J

Jess Waggoner is a Digital Projects Librarian at the UC Santa Cruz University Library. She is the Project Manager for the library’s IMLS-funded Omeka Curator Dashboard project.

 

In 2008 the University Library at the University of California, Santa Cruz embarked on a major project to digitize materials from our recently acquired Grateful Dead Archive and make them publicly available online. We sought a tool that would both provide a flexible interface for accessing these archival materials and manage the integration of “crowd-sourced” digital objects into the collection. The library selected Omeka as the platform for our Grateful Dead Archive Online (or GDAO), and with funding support from the IMLS for this project, we had great success using Omeka as our platform to build a community supported archive.

As the GDAO project wrapped up, we began to contemplate more expansive use of Omeka for exhibiting our other digital collections and could we integrate Omeka with our digital curation workflows. However, we quickly ran into some workflow and curatorial management questions: how would we import objects into Omeka from our CONTENTdm digital asset management system or the upcoming UC-wide digital collections? how would we make bulk changes to metadata after the objects were imported to Omeka? how would we push objects from Omeka into our archival repository, Merritt? After our success with GDAO, the answer dawned on us, “Let’s build some Omeka plugins!”

In the euphoria that accompanies the awareness of seemingly endless possibilities, we concluded that our development work should focus on curatorial workflow tools, metadata and file management tools, and additional crowd-sourcing tools. Since any Omeka plugins we developed would be made available to the entire Omeka community, we also consulted with other Omeka users and community members to assist us in prioritizing our development goals. We were awarded an IMLS grant to assist us in the creation of these Omeka plugins, and the Omeka Curator Dashboard project was officially launched.

The Omeka Curator Dashboard (or “the OCD” as we endearingly refer to it) is a suite of fifteen plugins (though a bonus sixteenth will be coming soon!) designed to facilitate object import and export, manage metadata, and curate collections. Several of our plugins are already available on the official list of Omeka plugins. The others are still undergoing testing, but can be downloaded from the UCSC Library GitHub in the meanwhile. We are actively soliciting feedback on these plugins from the Omeka user community so we can continue to improve their features and interfaces. Please drop us a line and let us know what you think!

Following is a brief overview of the fifteen OCD plugins and a sneak preview of the upcoming sixteenth plugin.

Bulk Metadata Editor:

Allows Omeka administrators to perform metadata changes on multiple objects based on selected criteria.

Item Review:

Allows Omeka administrators to review objects added to the site by Omeka users of lower roles prior to their publication.

YouTube Import:

Import YouTube videos and their associated metadata. Videos are embedded into the Omeka item record. Metadata are crosswalked to the standard Dublin Core fields in Omeka.

Item History Log:

Displays a log of curatorial actions (uploads, metadata changes, etc.) in an item record and generates curatorial reports by collection, user, or action.

Flickr Import:

Import images and their associated metadata from flickr. Metadata are crosswalked to the standard Dublin Core fields in Omeka.

METS Export:

Export Omeka items as METS objects.

Merritt Link:

Push Omeka objects into the UC3 Merritt archival repository. Metadata in METS format and any files associated with the Omeka object are ingested into Merritt as a single object.

Multimedia Display:

Allows Omeka administrators to assign select viewers with custom display profiles based on the item type, collection, or file format. For example, items of the type “Synchronized Oral History” can be viewed exclusively using the Oral History Metadata Synchronizer (or OHMS – one of the default viewers included in the plugin).

Getty Suggest:

Based on the Library of Congress Suggest plugin developed by the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, the Getty Suggest plugin allows Omeka administrators to assign metadata elements to a designated Getty vocabulary (currently: TGN, AAT, and ULAN). Autosuggestions from the assigned vocabulary appear as the Omeka administrator enters metadata in the selected elements.

CONTENTdm Link:

Import objects and their metadata from your CONTENTdm collection.

Simple Vocab Plus:

Based on the Simple Vocab plugin developed by the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, Simple Vocab Plus allows Omeka administrators to assign metadata elements to a designated custom vocabulary. The custom vocabulary can be stored in Omeka or synced to a cloud-based plain text file. Autosuggestions from the assigned vocabulary appear as the Omeka administrator enters metadata in the selected elements.

Nuxeo Link:

This plugin was developed for use with the UC Library Digital Collections (UCLDC) based in Nuxeo, but could be forked to work with other Nuxeo-based collections. Nuxeo Link allows Omeka administrators to import digital objects and their associated metadata from the UCLDC. Metadata are crosswalked to the standard Dublin Core fields in Omeka or mapped to the UCLDC schema depending on configuration.

Contributor Contact:

Quickly and easily contact all of your contributors via email.

Admin Images:

Upload non-item images to your Omeka site and retrieve an image URL that can be used in banner images, carousels, etc.

Sitemap:

Generates a dynamic XML sitemap for your Omeka site to assist in search engine optimization.

Vimeo Import:

Coming Soon! Import Vimeo videos and their associated metadata. Videos are embedded into the Omeka item record. Metadata are crosswalked to the standard Dublin Core fields in Omeka.

To learn more about the OCD project or follow our progress, please see our official Omeka Curator Dashboard project site. You can also watch this video of a presentation about the OCD given at the UCSC Omeka Symposium in May 2015.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Consider Omeka for Your Common Heritage Project

Tuesday, April 21st, 2015

Recently the National Endowment for the Humanities announced an unprecedented grant opportunity to fund family and local history. The Common Heritage grants call for widespread work to build community and capture history on the ground. The Omeka team shares these goals and is eager to support this work!

Consider using the Omeka system as your base of operations for collecting and describing the materials you plan to digitize. Widen your project’s reach by using the Contribution plugins to enable members of the public to upload and describe their born-digital materials. Finally, consider working with your community to narrate their history using the Exhibit Builder plugin.

Don’t forget that you don’t have to have your own server space to use Omeka in your Common Heritage project. You can sign up for an Omeka.net subscription and leave the hosting, updating, and maintenance to us!

Omeka 2.1 Release Candidate, updated Berlin theme, and a RESTful API

Thursday, July 11th, 2013

The Omeka team is very happy to announce important releases: an overhauled version of the popular Berlin theme, and a release candidate of Omeka 2.1

The updated Berlin theme features much cleaner HTML5 code and separation of content and presentation, and improved styling for the Exhibit Builder plugin. Sites using Berlin should upgrade to this latest version.

A release candidate of Omeka 2.1 is also ready for download.  As a release candidate — not a final release — you shouldn’t  upgrade your existing Omeka sites quite yet. Instead it is a preview for Omeka for developers and early adopters to try before we are ready for a final release. We especially want to invite feedback on its most important new feature,  a REST Application Programming Interface (API) for the Omeka installation.

Adding an API brings us better in line with a principle we at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media hold very important: the idea that data should not be locked into any one platform without a way to get it out. Some mechanisms for data exchange such as ATOM and other XML and JSON output formats have long been present in Omeka for retrieving data about items. The full API, however, exposes data about collections, files, item types — indeed, almost all the data that makes your Omeka installation tick. Plugins can also easily tap into the API, making sure that data they store can be available for outside applications.

But we also want other applications to be able to push data into Omeka, too. For most records, then, applications will be able to add, modify, or delete data in Omeka. Our hope is that this will facilitate a long-standing desire to make it easier for other systems to sync records with an Omeka site, or simply to migrate data from another CMS into an Omeka site.

Don’t worry, if you do not want to turn on the API, you don’t have to. Permissions to modify any data are only given to existing users of the site who have been given a key by an administrator. The same permissions by role apply to the API, so users with the “researcher” role will not be able to do anything through the API that they cannot do through the regular admin interface.

Instead, we want the release candidate out in the world so other developers can try out the API and give us feedback on it before it takes its final form. Afterall, the API is all about better interaction with other systems, and so we need to hear about how you all make use of it, to what extent it does what you need, and whether there are aspects that could be improved.

Or, if you want to try to latest Omeka in a new installation, possible remaining bugs and all, we definitely want to hear your feedback, too.

To begin exploring the API, start by reading the documentation for it. Our own inimitable Jim Safley has also produced example clients for Javascript, PHP (using Zend Framework 2), and Python that show some examples of how the API could be used. These should not be taken as the “official” clients to use. In fact, we hope that many people will create clients to demonstrate different approaches to using the API.

In addition to the bundled plugins Simple Pages and Exhibit Builder, developers might also want to download the release candidate versions of Geolocation and Commenting to see how plugins can be part of the API.

If you are a developer and have an interest in making data more open, we hope you will try the release candidates of Omeka and of these plugins and give us your feedback on the dev list.