This week, I was fortunate to interview Sheila Brennan, Co-Director of the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media‘s Occupy Archive and Outreach Coordinator for Omeka. If you’re a group or individual with a collection of materials that you want to make accessible, read on to learn about a great new free tool!
What is Omeka?
Omeka is a free, open-source, web publishing platform for displaying cultural heritage collections, creating digital exhibitions, and collecting materials and responses from public web visitors.
How might Omeka be used by an activist group or individual that is collecting materials to document a movement?
Omeka has been used as the platform for collecting after and during significant events, such as Hurricane Katrina (Hurricane Digital Memory Bank) and the shootings at Virginia Tech in 2007 (April 16 Archive), and most recently the Occupy Wall Street movement, Occupy Archive.
Using the Contribution plugin with Omeka, a group can start collecting files and responses from individuals through a customizable web form within 30 minutes of installing the software or signing up for an Omeka.net account.
Is it easy to use? How can I learn how to use it?
Yes, Omeka is very easy to use. The administrative web interface is intuitive for most users. The extensive Documentation, or Codex, section provides step-by-step tutorials and screencasts for novices interested in learning how to use the admin side, how to install, and for more advanced users, guidance on how to customize the site. For those choosing to use the Omeka.net service, we also offer screencasts and step-by-step tutorials in the Help section.
How can I get Omeka? What additional hardware or software is needed to run it?
Omeka may be downloaded at any time, and like most open-source software requires a Linux operating system, or a Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP (LAMP) configured server, plus the Image Magick program. There are full instructions to guide users through the process of installing the software, in the Preparing to Install and Installation section of the codex. We also offer suggestions for finding third-party hosting.
For those who do not wish to deal with setting up a Linux server or finding an outside host, the Omeka.net service might work best for them. Omeka.net is a little less flexible for overall web design and plugin availability, but is a nice alternative and lets you launch a new site within minutes. A full comparison between the two versions of Omeka is available here.
The Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media’s Occupy Archive is built on Omeka. Tell me about the project and the collection.
The Occupy Archive is documenting and saving the digital evidence and stories from the Occupy protests worldwide that began in September 2011 in Lower Manhattan. Occupy Wall Street (OWS) inspired groups to form in small towns and large cities around the world. #Occupy Archive seeks to represent each of those groups with individual collections.
In addition to saving materials currently available on the web related to #OWS, this project is also collecting stories, photos, video, and sounds from those participating in, organizing, or observing Occupy Movements. We want to hear from you. You will retain ownership of all that you share, and you will be contributing to the historical record.
We built the Archive using the Omeka platform and have extensively used Zotero to collect snapshots of organizational webpages, forums, YouTube channels, Facebook pages, fliers, and another digital imprints of the Occupy groups. You may notice that items identified as webpages contain a .zip file–this file is a copy of the web snapshot. We also have experimented with a feed importer that allows us to grab and link to Flickr images tagged with related keywords. We are not ingesting images with rights reserved and are relying heavily on Creative Commons licensed photos.
How can activists contribute to the Occupy Archive? What will happen with
the materials in the long-run?
We encourage activists and observers to contribute through the web form in the archive. If they have photographs to share, they can upload them to Flickr, tag them with OWS and give them a Creative Commons license, and we will automatically archive those photographs.
We will then be archiving this site with George Mason University’s MARS repository maintained by the library for long-term preservation.
~ With thanks to Howard Besser and Sharon Leon!