Archive for the ‘Community’ Category

Omeka’s Future: New Grants and New Features

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

Occasionally, interested individuals ask the Omeka team about the future and outlook of the project. Without quoting Timbuk3, I say that we are pleased with what lies ahead.

The Omeka project completed its three-year Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) grant in December 2010 (read the final report)and continues to move forward and grow. Since its public launch in 2008, Omeka exceeded all of our expectations in its growth and adoption by institutions of all sizes, individual scholars, educators, and enthusiasts. We have fostered a strong open source community that continues to thrive. CHNM is committed to supporting this community and its software, which we ourselves use for many of our in-house digital cultural heritage projects. Development of Omeka proceeds towards a version 2.0., and work continues with as well, as the development team makes additional plugins available for the hosted service.

As you may have read last week, we are especially pleased to be working with the University of Virginia’s Scholars’ Lab with funding from the Library of Congress over two years to fund a collaborative “Omeka + Neatline” initiative. The project’s goal is to enable scholars, students, and library and museum professionals to create geospatial and temporal visualizations of archival collections using a Neatline toolset within Omeka. Results from this project feed directly into Omeka to include regular point releases, improved documentation, development community support, user studies, key enhancements to the plugin API, and a set of geo-temporal visualization tools.

Omeka will also continue to grow with our newly-awarded IMLS National Leadership Grant to fund a pilot of an Omeka Commons. The Commons will offer a select group of Omeka institutional users an easy, one-click option for adding their collections to a central preservation grade repository to provide institutions with both a low-overhead preservation pathway for their materials, and greater community exposure and engagement. Second, Omeka Commons will provide researchers with immeasurably greater and centralized discovery and open access to the small collections contained in Omeka sites across the web. Meeting these aims will require significant work that will include enhancements to the core Omeka software, a new Omeka Commons server, and design and production of the Omeka Commons discovery portal. We look forward to getting the pilot launched within two years, so that we can offer the Commons option to all Omeka users.

We published a short roadmap that outlines forthcoming releases and milestones for 2011-2012.

We appreciate the support, feedback, and contributions we receive from the Omeka community each day, and we hope you will continue to follow our progress in our next two endeavors.

Calling All Omeka Users!

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

The Omeka team is always interested in the ways that people and institutions are using the software, so every once in a while we ask you to represent.

Take a minute and fill out our brief survey to report how you’re using Omeka.

We’ll publish the results without contact information so that the whole user community can get a sense of the great sites you’re building with Omeka.

Omeka and Its Peers

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

As an open source, not-for-profit, warm-and-fuzzy, community service oriented project, we don’t normally like to talk about market rivals or competitive products when we talk about Omeka. Nevertheless, we are often asked to compare Omeka with other products. "Who’s Omeka’s competition?" is a fairly frequent question. Like many FAQs, there is an easy answer and a more complicated one.

The easy answer is there is no competition. ;-) Omeka’s mix of ease of use, focus on presentation and narrative exhibition, adherence to standards, accommodation for library, museum, and academic users, open source license, open code flexibility, and low ($0) price tag really make it one of a kind. If you are a librarian, archivist, museum professional, or scholar who wants a free, open, relatively simple platform for building a compelling online exhibition, there really isn’t any alternative.

The more complicated answer is that there are lots of products on the market that do one or some of the things Omeka does. The emergence of the web has brought scholars and librarians, archivists, and museum professionals into increasingly closer contact and conversation as humanists are required to think differently and more deeply about the nature of information and librarians are required to play an ever more public role online. Yet these groups’ respective tool sets have remained largely separate. Library and archives professionals operate in a world of institutional repositories (Fedora, DSpace), integrated library systems (Evergreen, Ex Libris), and digital collections systems (CONTENTdm, Greenstone). Museum professionals operate in a world of collections management systems (TMS, KE Emu, PastPerfect) and online exhibition packages (Pachyderm, eMuseum). The humanist or interpretive professional’s online tool set is usually based around an off-the-rack web content management system such as WordPress (for blogs), MediaWiki (for wikis), or Drupal (for community sites). Alas, even today too much of this front facing work is still being done in Microsoft Publisher.

The collections professional’s tools are excellent for preserving digital collections, maintaining standardized metadata, and providing discovery services. They are less effective when it comes to exhibiting collections or providing the rich visual and interpretive context today’s web users expect. They are also often difficult to deploy and expensive to maintain. The blogs, wikis, and off-the-rack content management systems of the humanist (and, indeed, of the public programs staff within collecting institutions, especially museums) are the opposite: bad at handling collections and standardized metadata, good at building engaging experiences, and relatively simple and inexpensive to deploy and maintain.

Omeka aims to fill this gap by providing a collections-focused web publishing platform that offers both rigorous adherence to standards and interoperability with the collections professional’s toolkit and the design flexibility, interpretive opportunities, and ease of use of popular web authoring tools.

[Figure 1. Omeka Technology Ecosystem]

By combining these functions, Omeka helps advance collaboration of many sorts: between collections professionals and interpretive professionals, between collecting institutions and scholars, between a "back of the house" and "front of the house" staff, and so on.

[Figure 2. Omeka User Ecosystem]

In doing so, Omeka also helps advance the convergence and communication between librarians, archivists, museum professionals, and scholars that the digital age has sparked, allowing LAM professionals to participate more fully in the scholarship of the humanities and humanists to bring sophisticated information management techniques to their scholarship.

Which brings us back to the short answer. There really is no competition.

[Crossposted from Found History]

EAD & VRA Core Plugins Arriving

Friday, June 18th, 2010

We are excited to announce two new Omeka plugins that were developed by the folks at the University of Virginia’s Scholar’s Lab. Ethan Gruber took the lead and since he knows much more about the EAD Importer and VRA Core plugins than we do, we asked him if we could cross-post his Scholar’s Lab blog entry, Expanding the Capabilities of Omeka here. Ethan is a web application developer for Digital Research and Scholarship, a division of the University of Virginia Library.

Note: Plugins available for check out through SVN for now, but will be available to download as zip files through the plugin directory in the near future.

Because I have a keen interest in the description of cultural heritage artifacts and in doing interesting things with metadata, in recent months I have developed a handful of Omeka plugins to meet these interests. My first foray into plugin development for the application was with the EAD Importer. The EAD Importer, as the name suggests, extracts item-level metadata (along with a bit of collection-level metadata, like rights) from Encoded Archival Description finding aids and generates a CSV file which can be imported through the CSV Import plugin developed by the Omeka crew. The plugin would be useful to archivists who would like to use Omeka to build online exhibits of their collections. I took this framework a step further to create a plugin that is capable of importing any flat XML into Omeka by transforming that file into a CSV file.

Most recently, I have turned my attention to expanding the descriptive abilities of Omeka into the realm of collections of artwork. Omeka items are described with Dublin Core, which is capable of describing anything, though not particularly well. I developed VraCoreElementSet, which incorporates VRA Core fields into the Edit Item form. VRA Core is a much more semantically appropriate schema for describing art and artifacts. Since it was conceived as an XML standard (not strictly a flat list of fields), some elements have hierarchical sub-componenets. For example, a work may have several agents involved in its production, and each agent has a name as well as a role, culture, birth date, and, as the case may be, a death date. The VraCoreElementSet plugin creates a table for agents so that a user may enter this data separately. Then in the Edit Item form, the user may select VRA Core agents from a drop down menu restricted by the records in the agents table. Records may also be exported to schema-compliant VRA Core XML. There is still some work remaining on this plugin, but it is well on its way toward completion.

Now that the Scholars’ Lab has contributed EAD Importer and VRA Core Element Set plugins, Omeka may attract new institutional users from the library, archive, and museum fields, who may have otherwise settled for proprietary applications to disseminate their digital collections.

Pre-THATCamp Playdate

Friday, February 19th, 2010

The Omeka Team plans to host another pre-THATCamp playdate at CHNM on May 21, 2010 from 10am – 3pm. As always, the playdates are free and the wisdom gained is priceless.

This playdate will focus on design and development. We are seeking participants who are already working with Omeka and are looking to improve their development and/or design skills. As usual, we will begin and end the day together as a big group, and will spend much of the time working in small groups.

For more information and registration, please see the May Playdate page on the codex. Registration is on a first-come, first-served basis.

Plugin Rush 2010

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

We are trying something new this year and launching our first Omeka Plugin Rush. The Omeka Team needs help building plugins, so we decided to turn to our Omeka developer community for some assistance. Will you help us?

What, you might ask, will developers get in return for this work? In addition to the public praise the Omeka team will heap upon you, we will send along a mystery box of SWAG and a cash prize–each plugin pays a different amount depending on difficulty.

While we appreciate your ideas for plugins, we have a few in mind for the Rush. By May 1, 2010, we want working code for the following plugins:

  • Flickr importer–grab images, metadata and imports into Omeka.($250)
  • User tagging–allow anonymous users to tag items on public site. ($100)
  • Autocomplete for metadata–make data entry easier by suggesting previously used terms for each field with a dropdown box.($100)
  • Timeline Widget– allow users to add a SIMILE Timeline widget to their theme.($100)
  • Feed Importer ($250)–import data from Atom and RSS feeds.
  • Flash Wrapper ($100)–displays movie files with an embedded flash video player widget.

If you are interested in “rushing”, please do the following:

  • Check out the specs for each plugin.
  • Email our dev team(will at omeka dot org) stating which plugin you want to build and include a quick proposal or outline for approaching the code (Only one plugin per person or team).
  • Wait for dev team response. They will review proposals, make suggestions, and contact applicants to assign plugins. Once a plugin is assigned, it will come off of the list.

This Plugin Rush will be managed and updated on the dev list, and then we will announce the developers on the blog once the code is available for download in the Omeka plugin directory.

This is a great opportunity to test your skills, help an open-source community, and get a box of random things from the Omeka Team.

Tell your friends!

Omeka Outreach Month

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

Six more weeks of winter lie ahead, making the forthcoming frigid days perfect for starting or tweaking an Omeka project. The Omeka team will be working hard as well in February during the newly-designated “Omeka Outreach Month.”

We plan to write a few blog posts, seek assistance with plugin and theme development, and drop a new version at the end of the month featuring new themes and updated plugins. We also want to tweet new Omeka projects, so please share URLs:

  • in an email: outreach at omeka dot org;
  • on Twitter: @omeka;
  • or by posting to the Showcase wiki.

To kick off the month, we set up a Designer-Developer Marketplace forum to serve as a virtual meeting space where anyone looking to showcase her/his Omeka design and development skills can connect with others in need of an experienced designer-developer.

If you want to help with Omeka outreach this month, contact us and we will send you some bookmarks to pass out at conferences or to impress your friends and co-workers.

Open-source projects need strong communities, and we want to extend our thanks to everyone for working together and sharing knowledge (and code) to build one around Omeka.

Workshop at NCPH

Friday, February 27th, 2009

Are you going to the National Council on Public History meeting in Providence, RI? If you are interested in learning more about how Omeka can help with your public history projects, we are holding an informal workshop (aka “playdate”), on Thursday, April 2.

Visit the Omeka wiki to learn more and sign up for the NCPH workshop. Not going to NCPH? Look at the list of upcoming conference presentations–Omeka may be coming to your town soon.

Come Play with Us

Friday, January 23rd, 2009

We have scheduled 2 “playdates” for 20 interested users to come to CHNM and work with the Omeka team. In one room, 10 developers will work with the dev team to build plugins, hack themes, or add to the documentation. In the other room, 10 end users/content creators, will learn how to manage an Omeka archive and build exhibits.

If you’re interested, read the details and sign up on the Codex Wiki:

We will also start posting dates of conference workshops/presentations in a new section of the Codex, Upcoming Workshops.

Stop in and see us sometime.

Weekly Developer Chats on #omeka IRC

Saturday, January 10th, 2009

The Omeka development team is scheduling weekly developer chats on IRC. Our first chat was this afternoon at 2:30EST, and we had a good showing of both the core dev team along with users and coders from a variety of institutions including libraries and universities. For Q&A about hacking themes and plugins, and to talk more generally about developing with Omeka, join us on IRC at #omeka

Our next scheduled chat will be at 2:30EST on Friday, January 16th. I’ll talk to you then!