This week we looked into the use of Omeka; an online tool that helps to make databases and archives online, and available to the public. The site is perfect for institutions to put their collections online and allow the public to see what they offer.
I started fiddling with the site in preparation for this post, and in all honesty, I’m not a big fan. The site is complicated and bulky and limits activity on the site with a free account. Yes most sites do that but Omeka seems to be ultra restrictive with limitation on data and themes as well as the number of sites that can be created under an account. Sites like WordPress offer some limitation but I can create and modify simply with no concern of payment unless I wanted to. Omeka seems to be the opposite, if I want to complete something of good quality I have to pay.
But Omeka has its uses. It is an excellent outlet for the small museum or archive that allows the public access to their collections. Omeka is a complicated site but it can do wondrous things. I has looked snooped around the showcase portion of the site and located a few interesting sites: Heroes and Villains: Silver Age Comics at Atkins Library, Documenting the Gilded Age: New York City Exhibitions at the turn of the 20th century, and The Land of Penn and Plenty: Bringing History to the Table. All these sites were examples of what the site is capable of doing for an archive or museum.
The sites I looked at were produced on paid accounts, they were much more in depth than the simple sites allowed through a free account. The Comics archive is an look into a topic that is extremely popular to look at now, comics have begun to show their place in history in the last ten years. This archive plays off of that importance and the public interest to gain viewers which is necessary for an archive to gain an audience.
The Gilded Age archive is an excellent site, it is in-depth and offered a look into one of the most well remembered eras of New York’s History. The archive carries many different pieces, mainly fine art, from different locations together into one narrative. The site is like walking through a museum but it contains more pieces than a museum could carry in a single exhibit. It is an excellent example of how Omeka can be beneficial to an exhibit when not everything can be displayed, the audience still can experience the work.
The final site is The Land of Penn and Plenty, this site is a good start, it is the showcase of a smaller institution using the site for their benefit. It is more of a archive of paper than that of collections like the previous two sites mentioned. It gives information and a couple of images as well as some excerpts from resources that the institution has available giving an overview of the land use in Pennsylvania. The site looks like it needs more though, even with the amount of work they do have posted there is something missing.
All in all, the sites listed and explained above are excellent examples of what Omeka is capable of. I may have to explore the site some more in order to change my opinion of Omeka but the site seems worth it. I will continue to attempt to get the site to function for me in a way I can understand because it holds so much value in the public history field. Institutions can set up accounts and show their archives and collections to other people who might find them interesting or useful. Omeka is a resource that the museums need to recognize, especially the little institutions.