Omeka is O-mazing

Do you have a special collection of items, especially multimedia, that are languishing inside a box somewhere? Want to find a way to allow more people to notice them? Publish them on the Internet!

Though the solution seems simple enough, it’s not as easy as it looks. If you want to make your items visible and searchable to everyone, you’re going to have to put in a bit of work. But, if you take a systematic approach, you can streamline a process that will allow you to build – and get your collection out of the basement and into the cloud.

First, start out with just a small collection. Don’t try to tackle that 200-item Welcome Wagon scrapbook. Find a collection that has meaning for your Library community – such as historical photos or newspaper articles about the time that famous person did that famous thing in your town. Keeping things to a minimum will allow you to play without getting discouraged – you’ll appreciate seeing your to-do stack getting smaller.

Next, digitize that collection if you haven’t already. Even if you don’t have the highest quality scanner, get those items saved as jpegs or pdfs. Don’t forget, your nearest SPLAT Gizmo Garage has a small scanner you can borrow. As you scan, make note of all the metadata (tags) – if you do this in an Excel document, you’ll thank yourself later – paying special attention to an item’s original format. If your items are already digitized, make sure you have collected all the metadata you can. (Here’s a link to information about using the Dublin Core system of metadata. It’s relatively easy to understand and is used by Omeka.)

Then, sign up for an Omeka account. Omeka is web-publishing platform designed with museums and libraries in mind. It is open-source, and a basic account will net you a free spot on their server to host your collection/exhibit. A great walk-through for creating an account with an overview and examples is here. Or, download their User Guide for Librarians for extra help. There will be a learning curve for getting used to the system and for uploading/tagging your items, but once you’ve done it a few times, it will get easier. (The Twin Falls Public Library’s collection is a work in progress, but if you have questions, please let me know.)

Finally, show off your stuff! Post a link to your new collection on your webpage, inform the local media and other organizations, and highlight it in promotional materials. Once your online collection has been developed, it will be easy to add items or to create exhibits tying items together thematically. You’ll have a unique community resource that people will actually see and use. And, it will be much easier to look through than a shoebox.

Give it a try and let us know how it goes!