News Omeka 2.1 Release Candidate, updated Berlin theme, and a RESTful API

The Omeka team is very happy to announce important releases: an overhauled version of the popular Berlin theme, and a release candidate of Omeka 2.1

The updated Berlin theme features much cleaner HTML5 code and separation of content and presentation, and improved styling for the Exhibit Builder plugin. Sites using Berlin should upgrade to this latest version.

A release candidate of Omeka 2.1 is also ready for download.  As a release candidate – not a final release – you shouldn’t  upgrade your existing Omeka sites quite yet. Instead it is a preview for Omeka for developers and early adopters to try before we are ready for a final release. We especially want to invite feedback on its most important new feature,  a REST Application Programming Interface (API) for the Omeka installation.

Adding an API brings us better in line with a principle we at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media hold very important: the idea that data should not be locked into any one platform without a way to get it out. Some mechanisms for data exchange such as ATOM and other XML and JSON output formats have long been present in Omeka for retrieving data about items. The full API, however, exposes data about collections, files, item types – indeed, almost all the data that makes your Omeka installation tick. Plugins can also easily tap into the API, making sure that data they store can be available for outside applications.

But we also want other applications to be able to push data into Omeka, too. For most records, then, applications will be able to add, modify, or delete data in Omeka. Our hope is that this will facilitate a long-standing desire to make it easier for other systems to sync records with an Omeka site, or simply to migrate data from another CMS into an Omeka site.

Don’t worry, if you do not want to turn on the API, you don’t have to. Permissions to modify any data are only given to existing users of the site who have been given a key by an administrator. The same permissions by role apply to the API, so users with the “researcher” role will not be able to do anything through the API that they cannot do through the regular admin interface.

Instead, we want the release candidate out in the world so other developers can try out the API and give us feedback on it before it takes its final form. Afterall, the API is all about better interaction with other systems, and so we need to hear about how you all make use of it, to what extent it does what you need, and whether there are aspects that could be improved.

Or, if you want to try to latest Omeka in a new installation, possible remaining bugs and all, we definitely want to hear your feedback, too.

To begin exploring the API, start by reading the documentation for it. Our own inimitable Jim Safley has also produced example clients for Javascript, PHP (using Zend Framework 2), and Python that show some examples of how the API could be used. These should not be taken as the “official” clients to use. In fact, we hope that many people will create clients to demonstrate different approaches to using the API.

In addition to the bundled plugins Simple Pages and Exhibit Builder, developers might also want to download the release candidate versions of Geolocation and Commenting to see how plugins can be part of the API.

If you are a developer and have an interest in making data more open, we hope you will try the release candidates of Omeka and of these plugins and give us your feedback on the dev list.

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