Omeka was created by the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University, specifically, for those with minimal technical knowledge to be able to publish digital collections. There are two versions of Omeka: Omeka.net and Omeka.org (Rath, 2016). The main difference is that Omeka.net is hosted, while Omeka.org is not, meaning it requires a server and ftp client, along with technical staff with the know-how to install and maintain it. For our collection, we used Omeka.net. It’s touted for its ease of use (Kroski, 2013) and low cost (we chose the basic plan, which is free). It is ideal for smaller organizations that may not have the financial resources or technical staff to support a hosted version (McCullough, 2014 as cited in Rath, 2016).
If you are considering Omeka.org vs. Omeka.net, here are the main differences between the two versions(Corporation for Digital Scholarship, 2010):
- Downloadable version that you must host yourself
- Requires LAMP server and FTP client
- Free, including themes and plugins
- Unlimited plugins and themes
- Ability to customize plugins and themes
- Supports custom domain names
- You provide the storage space on your server, so you determine any file size limitations.
- To have multiple sites, you must install multiple applications
- Hosted version
- Does not require a server or an FTP client
- The basic plan is free and includes a domain for 1 site, 15 standard plugins, 5 themes, and 500MB of storage. Other plans range in fees from $49/year for an individual to $999/year for institutions, which includes an unlimited number of themes, sites, and plugins
- There are 15 plugins available for all plans and include features like the exhibit builder, Google Analytics, Library of Congress Subject Headings, and social bookmarking, but even some pretty basic plugins, like extended Dublin Core, commenting, HTML5 media, and CSS editor, require a fee-based plan. A greater number of plugin and theme options are available for higher level plans.
- Themes and plugins are not customizable but, rather, configurable through the online administrative interface
- Custom domain names are not supported. Your domain will be: yoursite.omeka.net
- The storage space ranges from 500MB-25GB. File size is limited to 64MB.
- Multiple sites are available depending on the level of your plan.
Rath (2016) published a case study describing her first-hand experience of setting up an Omeka.net site at an academic library. She uses six criteria to evaluate Omeka.net: “cost; website management; content building and management; communities, engagement and collaboration; exploration and knowledge building; and website support” (Rath, 2016, pp. 162).
Using these six factors as a basis for our own reflection on building an Omeka.net site, here’s what we experienced:
- Cost: While Omeka.org is completely free and offers the most options in terms of number of sites, plugins, and themes, we do not have a server to host the site or technical support to maintain it. We landed on the free, hosted version of Omeka.net as our best option, with sufficient themes and plug-ins included.
- Website Management: There is an administrative side to the website that allows you to choose a theme, add users, install plug-ins, choose fonts and colors, upload a logo, and select how items will be displayed as items, exhibits, or collections. It enables collaboration by allowing multiple administrators to edit the site (Rath, 2016).
- Content Building and Management refers to uploading items, describing them with metadata and/or tags, and adding them to exhibits and collections. There is the option to provide metadata at the item-level, exhibition-level, and collection-level. We applied metadata and tags to each item. There is a plugin that allows you to populate any field with a controlled vocabulary term from the Library of Congress. If your collection is unique, you can build a custom controlled vocabulary to use to describe the collection (Rath, 2016). We were not able to take advantage of some plugins that would have improved the content management, such as Dublin Core Extended, because it is part of the fee-based plans only (Corporation for Digital Scholarship, 2017).
- Exploration and Knowledge Building refers to browsing and searching possibilities. On the Omeka site, we used a plugin to enable a search bar. Users can also browse by items or collections, and, within items, tags help users select what their interested in exploring.
- Website Support: Omeka.net has a large community of users and an extensive set of help pages (Kroski, 2013). We found most of the steps of building the site intuitive and did not have much need for consulting the website support features.