Creating a heraldry database

I am very new to Omeka. As of right now I'm just developing sites in XHTML and CSS, with some lifted javascript here and there.

A hobby of mine is heraldry. It's an obscure, arcane subject which strangely enough has a lot in common with web design in that there is a written language that is used, like HTML, to represent visual elements. I want to create an online database for "blazons" - written descriptions of shields that belong to specific individuals.

An example of a blazon is: Per pale Or and Vert three escallops reversed in pale within a bordure embattled all counterchanged. The visual representation of this can be found here.

Here is an example of a set of data I'd like to catalog:

So in history, each shield represents an individual (not families) and there are quite a few heraldry enthusiasts, genealogists and historians who have an interest in being able to identify these shields, or the reverse, look up an individual and see if they have a shield associated with them. Unfortunately most of the records are spread out over multiple non-digitized sources. Old books mostly.

What I have in mind is a Google home page like interface. Just a minimalist search field. Folks will enter either a historical person's name, say, "George Washington." OR - they'll enter common "blazon" descriptors, like "escallops reversed." Results will yield a long list of links to entries that either include the terms "George Washington" or "escallops reversed" respectively. Each entry has the blazon (description) of the shield, name of the individual it's associated with, perhaps dates of use, or birth/death dates of the individual, country of origin etc. Not unlike the page on a similar site here.

The tricky part (and what will set this site apart from others like it) is method of getting the data onto this online searchable database. The hope is to employ a group of volunteers to transcribe from historical documents these "blazons" and enter them into the database. I'd like either a small form to enter one at a time, and a method for someone to upload a spreadsheet of, say, hundreds of blazons and attributed information at once.

Also instead of new records appearing automatically - I'd like the data to be vetted by other "higher level" volunteers or site administrators.

Do you think Omeka is an appropriate CMS for this type of system? How might I get started in this? What modules/plugins might I need?

Any other pertinent ideas/information?

Omeka would work well for this, especially if you do some careful work thinking through how to set up the metadata you need to record.

Each shield would be an Item in Omeka, which out-of-the-box lets you record metadata in the Dublin Core standard and attach files. For what you are describing, you might want to create a new Item Type called "Shield" as well. It sounds like the info contained in the blazon is broken up into possibly complex parts. In the Item Type, you could make each of those parts its own metadata field. That would facilitate the more precise searching you describe. Then again, if you don't want/need to be that precise, it could all go into the description field and be searchable.

Without doing any coding, you could make volunteers have the "Researcher" role in Omeka. That would let them create new data from the administrative side of Omeka. The default form might show more than you want, but the basic functionality is there.

The CSVImport plugin can help with uploading a spreadsheet of data.

Best way to get started is to install Omeka someplace and start exploring. Take some of your example data and create some items, thinking about what metadata you want to record, whether you need to break the blazon into component parts, etc.

What I described above works with Omeka without modification. As you explore you might also keep an eye toward what kinds of things you might like to modify, and if you're ready to learn some PHP to make some of the modifications.