Building an Omeka site

You can use the Tab labelled “Mormon History Test Site” or click here to go to my Omeka site.

Omeka is a content management system that was built with the focus on the “item” and not on text. Think of it as a way to collect, curate and exhibit digitized objects and documents. As a DH fellow at CHNM, I have heard a lot about Omeka as it was developed by the Public Projects division of the center. I was excited to get to use Omeka and learn more about this powerful tool. It just so happens that this weeks practicum for Clio Wired I is to install Omeka and upload some items. At the same time, the fellows rotated into the Public Projects division of the center and were assigned to become familiar with Omeka. For the practicum, we were asked to upload six items to Omeka and play around with them and write about our experience.

My first task was finding sources/items to upload to Omeka. In a way, I am behind the curve on sources as I came into the PhD program without a Masters degree and an undergraduate degree in Geography. I wanted to use this practicum as a trial run for my semester project. The idea for my project was to text mine sermons given by Jedediah M. Grant during the Mormon Reformation. I was then going to map the places Grant went to give these sermons and see if there was a correlation between where he was and the type of language he used in his sermons. He only lived for the first year of the Reformation, but in that time he received the nickname “Brigham’s Sledgehammer.” However, in my preliminary research I was only able to find the text for roughly five of his sermons and all but one of them was given in Salt Lake City. At any rate, I have put this idea on the back burner… I instead collected some political cartoons on Mormonism from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. I went to the Library of Congress online and searched through there Prints and Photographs collection.

One of the important parts of uploading items to Omeka is the metadata. Omeka uses the Dublin Core standard for metadata. I was unfamiliar with  that system but Alyssa Fahringer showed me some documentation on Dublin core through the Omeka codex. It was helpful in understanding what each indicator was and how to ultimately use Dublin Core. Since the Library of Congress has fnatastic metadata on each of their items, it was relatively easy to fill in the information needed. Some of the fields I didn’t use with any of my items (i.e. contributor). I imagine that certain items would warrant that field to be populated. Overall, my impression of uploading the items and populating the metadata is positive as the documentation helped the process.

After I uploaded all my items, I created a collection. I chose to focus the collection on cartoons whose focus was on polygamy. This included four of the six items I had uploaded. I found the process of creating a collection very easy. You work your way through the metadata fields, populating them with the relevant information. Since I had already uploaded my items, I went back and edited each one to add them to this collection. It was a very straight forward process that is easy to manage.

The appearance of the site is important to me. I didn’t like the default theme as it didn’t highlight the image of the item. My background in cartography really trained me to be a visual person. I wanted the image of the item to be the first thing the end user sees when exploring my Omeka site. I tried out various themes and found Seasons to organize and display the items in a way that I like. I do like that there are different themes that can be used on the site and that each theme is fairly different. I have used some sites where they offer different themes but they ultimately are the same layout just with different coloring. I also renamed the tabs across the top to not be so generic. I removed the exhibit tab as well since I do not have an exhibit up yet.

After I had finished designing and managing my site, I moved around on the website. It is very intuitive on both the back and front ends. That is to say that it is hard to “get lost” in the site. Granted this is only a test and my total number of items amounts to six even still, it is a great design. During the entire process, I did not run into any problems with the interface or software. Not once did i need to go to a FAQ  page or Help me forum when using this software. I am excited to use this more and would like to work it into my semester project for class.


Building an Omeka site
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