Here at Omeka HQ, we’re in the final stretch of work on the 2.0 version of the software. We expect that the release, which will come toward the end of October, will bring a range of wonderful improvements for both end users and developers. The result will be a version of Omeka that far surpasses the original instance that we first launched in February 2008. But, even at that point, Omeka was a simple open source web publishing platform with big ambitions. During the last four and a half years, supported by the Institute for Museum and Library Services and the Library of Congress, the software has experienced extraordinary growth and refinement. Now we offer and support dozens of plugins and themes, and our work on internationalization has made it possible for users to work in over twenty languages.
While the Omeka team has concentrated on serving the basic needs of libraries, museums, archives and scholars, our users have been producing rich sites that offer access to primary materials and expert knowledge in new and interesting ways. This year alone, we’ve had over 8,000 downloads of the software from our site and that doesn’t account for the installations that are happening using the various one-click options from web hosts or are being cloned from the github repository. One look at the long list of sites in our Sites Using Omeka page will reveal both the flexibility of the platform and the creativity of our users. These sites are just a sample of the work being done with Omeka (and if you have a site that’s not on the list, by all means, add it).
The development community has built amazing extensions of the basic software, taking it beyond the use cases that we originally imagined. Cleveland State University’s Center for Public History and Digital Humanities has released the MobileHistorial/Curatescape system for doing mobile public history work. And the University of Virginia’s Scholars Lab has recently released the Neatline suite of plugins for spatial and temporal work. Omeka also plays nicely with the LOC’s Viewshare visualization tool. These extensions and integrations exemplify the ways that Omeka can serve as a platform for new interpretative work in digital humanities and cultural heritage.
We always meant for Omeka to serve a segment of the cultural heritage community that would not be developing plugins or customizing themes. One of our initial goals was to make it easier for small institutions with few employees or a dedicated group of volunteers and little in the way of technical budget to bring their materials and perspectives to a wider audience through the web. In October 2010, we launched Omeka.net to begin to serve that audience. Today we have over 5,500 users working on roughly 3,800 sites, and we’re experiencing a growth rate of around 120 sites a month.
Together the rich community that has formed around Omeka and the ways that subscribers are using Omeka.net to share their materials more than fulfills our original vision for the software. Now the question is:
What Comes Next?
Moving forward after the release of 2.0, we have three main goals for Omeka:
We are committed to making cultural heritage materials and scholarship more discoverable on the open web. The Omeka Commons project will allow us to do that by offering Omeka site administrators a way to share their items at a central point of discovery. The Commons visitors will be able to search for content, share and embed those items, and also follow that content back to the originating site. Soon, we will need testers (those using Omeka 1.5 and higher) to share their materials with the alpha version of the Commons. If you’re interested in participating, drop us an email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
We will work to more fully integrate Omeka with existing GLAM and scholarly communications platforms. We firmly believe that content and data silos prevent innovation, so we are developing ways for Omeka to integrate with the places that users already create and share their work, such as YouTube, Vimeo, the Internet Archive, and institutional repositories. Also, we see linked open data as central to the larger goal of integration and we are working on ways to facilitate the linking of Omeka content.
Finally, we are well aware that many open source software ventures fail because they fall on the shoulders of a single developer. After nearly five years, Omeka continues to grow and thrive, due in large part to our user and developer community. We remain committed to fostering the vibrant community that has grown up around Omeka, and we will support that community through responsive forums, easy to understand documentation, and ongoing collaboration with developers, designers, and end users. At the same time, Omeka will continue to be an essential part of our own grant-funded work at RRCHNM, assuring the software’s core development and long-term sustainability.
Stay tuned in the coming months for more news on our plans!