Thoughts on Omeka

Welcome back, all! For this week’s blog I looked at a showcase website built using Omeka. (Omeka is a website building and publishing platform, much like WordPress, SquareSpace, and others.)

The site I chose to look at is called the Humboldt Redwoods Project, created by Humboldt State University Library Special Collections and their Museum & Gallery Practices Certification Program. As the project’s name alludes, the site is focused on the redwood trees from California’s North Coast and the history surrounding them.

However, I’m not writing this to talk about how cool redwoods are—though they are super super cool, they get so big!—but rather how the website is built, its functionality, aesthetics, and how I might approach Omeka in my work through HIST 325: Doing Digital History.

The first thing I like about the site is the simple layout. Who made it, what it’s about, and what is included on the website is explained upfront on the main page, with links to the materials off to the left. I also enjoy the rotating picture show at the bottom of the screen, which gives it a nice feeling of action without being overwhelming. In my opinion, it’s better to have a little something moving to keep something from feeling visually stagnant.

That being said, it is very simple, and adding a little more pizzazz might have spiced it up to make the Humboldt Redwoods Project a real humdinger! I can’t say I could do better with the skills I have now, but it’s always possible to improve.

Another thing I notice is the search bar. This is a nice feature as it gives the viewer the chance to skip right to what they want. On the flip side, with a little bit of keyword searching, it looks like the creators didn’t make everything searchable. The only results that pop up are images or other items that are attached to different pages on the website, which creates a lack of context. But maybe this is a shortcoming of Omeka?

The next fun thing on the Humboldt Redwoods Project website is an Items Map. Omeka allowed the creators to overlay a map of the United States with pins—all of which are localized to California because of the subject matter—which are attached to items. When the pin is clicked, a picture from the collection pops up with some basic information. This gives the viewer an opportunity to see rather than imagine where different photos were taken.

The map feature could be useful for HIST 325’s Mapping Marriage Project. I proposed making an interactive map of courting couples that would allow the viewer to toggle different markers to show who’s courting who and from where. However, I’m not sure if Omeka has the ability to handle what may turn out to be a complicated project.

I found the final feature that caught my eye when I was looking through the Browse Exhibits page. There’s a tab at the top of the page that says “Browse by Tag.” When you click on it, it allows you to select any tag listed (which is any tag that has been used) and it will direct you to whatever page on the site is associated with that tag.

Depending on the scope of the digital aspect of our Mapping Marriage Project, this might be a useful tool to incorporate. If we have a lot of information present on our site, being able to tag and sort that data by tag could save a lot of time and navigation.

Overall, Omeka looks like a promising platform for website development. But we’ll just have to wait and see just how well it fits…

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