For a few weeks now I have been interested in looking deeper into Omeka and the way that the site works. The site is listed as a platform that can be used to create digital exhibitions and showcase pieces within a collection. With a rainy night in store I felt it was a good time to sign up for a free trial and see where it takes me.
My original thought was that the site was aimed at a wide range of users from museum professionals to members of the public wishing to catalogue their own objects of significance. After looking more closely at the exhibitions on “Showcase” it is clear that the platform hosts mainly professionals in the museum field as well as academic researchers, both students and teachers.
I do not possess the rights to any primary source information that I have done extensive research on. My experiment is therefore going to be a bit different from the examples that Omeka provides. The sign up itself is relatively straightforward and within a matter of minutes I was staring at a blank page with a prompt reading “add site.” This prompt takes you to a page requiring a subdomain name as well as a website title and description. With the knowledge that I would (hopefully) be able to edit later I settled on the title: With a Little Help from My Grandparents. In trying to think of items of significance that I could possibly use as source material, I realized that many of my family heirlooms are in fact primary sources. So I now have sample material to post about thanks to my grandparents’ impressive record keeping.
I then set about trying to edit and customize the website. Given that I am only using a trial version my options are a bit limited but there were still some decisions to be made. Similar to many blog hosting sites you can edit the header and icon photo and add in more descriptions.
The editing process for the base look of the site was easy to understand and this extended to the adding of content as well. In order to add content you have to add new “Items.” I think I take things quite literally so I added a physical item but the criteria could clearly be used in reference to written documents, photographs and the like. The item I used as a test is an old Singer sewing machine given to me by my grandmother. I had to fill out many sections about the title, topic and creator of the object, as well as the provider. The website provides you the opportunity to really go into detail about what you are posting and I barely scratched the surface with the information about my object.
Ideally, I would have added a photo to accompany my description and the website makes it very easy to accomplish this task. Surprisingly, an old sewing machine is not at the top of the list of items you need for grad school. So the sewing machine sits comfortably at my family home and a photo will have to wait for another time. One of the reasons I wanted the photo was for the opportunity to create something that felt more like an exhibit. Many of the examples I looked at were even more compelling because they featured images of the source material (letters, photographs, etc.)
I am still coming back to my original perception of Omeka and it makes me think about the types of platforms I would like to see online. My ideal method of cataloguing or posting about my grandmother’s sewing machine would be within a more communal space. I wonder if there would be an audience for an Etsy or Pinterest formatted website where users could instead post their own records of historical significance. The website would not have “like” or “sell” options because of the hierarchy that would create. This tool could also present some problems for archives with people believing that their records are already immortalized. But I also wonder if this maybe already exists? Would love to hear from anyone if they know of something like this!
Lastly another song, with a title that relates nicely to family objects, the rest of the song less so: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZamEcNgtw4o
(The version done by Naked Eyes may be more popular)