Omeka Web-Publishing Platform Makes Historical Archives More Accessible

by Ostatic Staff - Mar. 09, 2009

There are loads of terrific general Web publishing tools available these days, but some industries require specific features to meet unique needs. Omeka is a free and open source Web-based publishing platform designed with libraries, higher-level learning institutions, and museums in minds. Funded by philanthropic organizations and licensed under the GPL, Omeka "makes launching an online exhibition as easy as launching a blog" and is perfect for groups that don't have IT-specialists on the payroll.

Project Director Dan Cohen, says, "Omeka grew organically out of a strong need that we identified at CHNM over the last decade, as we built a series of projects that presented, and in some cases collected, historical artifacts. Projects such as the September 11 Digital Archive and associated work with institutions such as the Smithsonian and the Library of Congress made us realize how much work -- and how much money -- it takes for institutions (and individuals) to mount high-quality and flexible exhibits online, and to manage the underlying collections."

Several fascinating and informative Web sites have already been designed using Omeka, and there are a number of ways scholars, archivists, educators, and museums can use the platform to develop new ones. It's fully customizable and several plugins are already available.

I'm always glad to see projects that are developed around education. Similar to what Moodle has done for online learning, Omeka looks like a great tool for making library collections, historical archives, and museum exhibitions more accessible to the general public. It's also ideal for individuals with extensive personal collections of anything from seashells to genealogy records, who want to put their archives online to share with others.

Even if you don't have a personal collection to put online, you can still get involved with the Omeka by helping with theme design, plugin development, or documentation. If you're a developer with PHP, MySQL, Javascript, and XML, you might even be able to land a job with the project.