New Project: Exhibiting the War on Terror

I hope this is the appropriate forum to share an idea that is only in its infancy--an idea that hopes one day to be a full-fledged use case. Once I get a rudimentary site together, I'll post it. I welcome feedback and ideas. I'm approaching Omeka as someone who has no programming ability or special technical expertise so I'll be evaluating it from a very particular sort of end user perspective.

Long-term Vision of the Project and Objectives:

Scholars concerned with contemporary events and culture increasingly find it useful, if not essential, to include Web-based materials among the primary sources they study. The transient nature of Web-based information, however, presents a problem for long-term projects and creates difficulties for those who wish to consult a scholar’s sources at a later date. Through my project I hope to explore how digital resources can be used by scholars to:

•Collect, archive, organize, and display Web-based primary sources (i.e., third-party content)
•Append supplemental information, such as image, audio, and text files, that are collected or created separately from Web-based sources
•Share evolving work (via completely open access, in a pass-word protected environment, or a combination of both as desired by the primary user)
•Invite collaboration

Test Case Example: Exhibiting the War on Terror

Over the last two decades, scholars have increasingly made museums and the roles they play as collectors, preservers, interpreters, and promoters of certain forms of cultural capital the subject of study. However, relatively little ink has been devoted to explicating how American museums have wielded their cultural power during times of war. My research on museum activities during past wars takes me to the archives, but my efforts to study museum engagements with the current war are largely dependent upon Internet sources supplemented by my own fieldwork (i.e., visiting exhibits, conducting interviews, collecting printed material). To date, I have collected rudimentary information on a number of museum-based exhibitions related to “the war on terror” as well as exhibits organized by for-profit galleries and non-museum spaces (e.g., libraries).

It was proposed that I might begin by organizing this material into an exhibit of exhibitions—a meta-exhibit—using Omeka, an open-source Web publishing platform designed for users who collect and exhibit materials. This display might represent one layer in the much larger project described in the “Objectives” section of this document. Some have suggested that it might be easier to build my project “from scratch,” but I like the idea of morphing Omeka into something that other scholars can adapt to their projects much in the same way museums can adapt Omeka to their needs.

By including a feature that enables site visitors/collaborators to contribute comments and/or materials it might be possible to:

•Allow visitors to exhibitions to post comments/reviews/images. This would not only expand the types of data I am able to collect about these exhibitions, it might also open up the possibility to collaborate with museums that want to collect visitor feedback on their war-themed exhibitions.

•Learn of exhibitions around the country that might otherwise escape my detection, thus helping to build a more comprehensive database.

•Collaborate with others in collecting, interpreting, and publishing findings based on this material

•These possibilities would apply not only to the proposed test case but to other projects that such a software suite might facilitate.

My Immediate Tasks

1. Spec out the project in enough detail that I can collaborate with the technical experts (I’m a techno-newbie)

2. Experiment with Omeka, assess its strengths and limits in terms of applicability to my project, and write up the results.


Thanks for sharing your project idea. I think Omeka can be very useful for your exhibit of exhibits.

You will be able to collaborate quite easily with your Omeka site--from both front and back ends. Since Omeka admin is web-based, you can have many people adding to your site from all over the place. As the "super user", you may adjust permission levels as necessary for your collaborators. And the contribution plugin allows visitors to contribute to your archive, and you can use those images, audio files, documents, et al. in building online exhibits.

You'll notice that there is a "website" item type that will allow you to include descriptive metadata for online exhibitions you have found relating to the War on Terror. But, as I'm sure you have already noticed, there are some small temporary exhibits on the War that never received a web presence.

Think about getting a hosted account from Dreamhost ( to handle your server needs (Linux, Apache, MySql, PhP), and then you can focus on populating your database with some of the sources you've already collected.

Good luck and keep us informed.