August 19, 2016 by Amanda Visconti

Teaching with Omeka (DH consultation notes)

When I provide DH consultations via email or in person, I try to also share the resources mentioned as a blog post here when they seem broadly useful. These notes aren’t representative of everything available on a topic, just some info for those new to a topic getting their feet wet. See this blog’s advice category for more posts with advice and tutorials, and let me know if you’d like more in-depth resources around a specific DH topic.

Some of the best online lessons I know of are these two on the peer-reviewed Programming Historian website: “Up and Running with Omeka.net” by Miriam Posner, followed by “Creating an Omeka Exhibit” by Miriam Posner and Megan R. Brett. These do a thorough walkthrough of setting up and filling out your Omeka website (and include frequent screenshots!).

Do you know where you want students to create their websites? I’ve found the easiest thing is having each student create an account on Omeka.net using the free plan (500MB storage, 15 available plugins that add extra site features, and 5 themes that change the look of your site). An Omeka.net account gives each student a free Omeka website (at something like mycustomtitle.omeka.net) , plus lots of documentation for any questions that come up. Some examples of Omeka.net sites are here.

Note that Omeka.net is different from Omeka.org; Omeka.net lets you build Omeka sites right on the Omeka.net website, while Omeka.org is the Omeka code, which you can download and on your own server to have more control and customization options.

For a more in-depth project where students would want to be altering Omeka code, installing the code on their own web server, using plugins (things that add features like commenting) or themes (change the look of your website) not available on Omeka.net, or purchasing and using a more customized domain name (MyCustomSite.com instead of MyCustomSite.omeka.net), you’d want to explore the resources on Omeka.org. This is considerably more technically intensive than using Omeka.net and is comparable to running your own WordPress blog instead of using WordPress.net (if you’re familiar with those). But! For both Omeka options (.net and .org), there’s amazing and thorough documentation, user forums, and tutorials focused on teaching with Omeka; you just need to decide how much effort you or your students want to devote to web development.

If you do choose Omeka.org, your university IT may or may not be willing to install the code for you on your free university web space (like Drupal or WordPress, Omeka requires not just web code but a database). If the cost is not prohibitive, I highly recommend considering pointing students to Reclaim Hosting instead; this gives them greater control over their website, especially after they graduate or otherwise leave the university. Reclaim has a $25/year option that includes excellent custom service knowledgable about academics’ needs, a free custom domain name (e.g. MyCoolOmekaSite.com), and installation of Omeka at the push of a button.

A few additional resources:

  • Amanda French’s Omeka lesson plan (detailed outline for what to cover in class when introducing Omeka)
  • Miriam Posner’s “How did they make that?”, a blog post showing several DH projects (including an Omeka one) and explaining in non-technical language the tools and work involved in creating each project
  • This Omeka PDF has links for understanding Omeka terminology like metadata and Dublin Core
  • This lesson at TeachingHistory.org is another option for getting started with Omeka
  • Jeffrey W. McClurken on “Teaching with Omeka
  • Some examples of Omeka class projects
  • Sheila Brennan’s Omeka resource roundup
  • Alexandra Bolintineanu’s Omeka Gym, a website collecting Omeka assignments, resources, examples, etc.

There are many more excellent Omeka resources out there, so if you’re seeking help with something specific, consider an online search to turn up the many Omeka-focused teacher’s blog posts and presentation, then posting to Omeka’s support forums.