We have returned from a very productive meeting organized by our great partners at the Minnesota Historical Society (MHS) in St. Paul. We worked, listened, and discussed Omeka 0.9.0 with folks from MHS, along with others from the Great Rivers Network, University of Minnesota libraries, Science Museum of Minnesota, Carleton College library, Northfield Historical Society and Public Library, Stillwater Public Library, and Hennepin County Medical Center History Museum.
Our goals for this meeting were threefold:
To introduce Omeka and projects built upon its base.
To demonstrate how Omeka works by building and shaping an archive and then pulling items together for a mock curated exhibit.
To discuss concerns and listen to feedback on Omeka’s user interface, overall functionality, and potential new features.
Our working group was incredibly lively and talkative, which pleased us. We took copious notes and are sharing them with the entire Omeka team.
While Omeka is flexible for many projects, we are particularly concerned with meeting the needs of smaller museums and libraries who have fascinating collections to share, but lack an inexpensive and easy way to publish them online. One workshop participant volunteers at the Stillwater Public Library and works with their special collections. She wants to digitize many of their documents and publish them in a system that is fully searchable and easy to access, because she knows that many researchers do not know the breadth of their collections. She liked using Omeka and hopes that it can provide the library with an affordable solution for accomplishing their goals.
Other participants came to the meeting with collaboration in mind. A group of libraries and museums from Northfield, MN envisions using Omeka to aggregate data stored in different collections and content management systems. Omeka not only offers this group a database for publishing their resources online, but will eventually provide plugins to make batch importing of records from different CMS’s into installations possible and easy.
The most recent report from IMLS found that adults trust museum and library websites more than other sources of information, including government sites. So, why not publish more content? We think Omeka can expand the amount of content available in the current museum- and library-sphere, and can increase the presence of medium and smaller museums and libraries who want to share their expertise and collections with eager online audiences.