Omeka Introduction

by Lauren Baker and Heyrling Oropeza

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: and (Rath, 2016). The main difference is that is hosted, while 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 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 vs., here are the main differences between the two versions(Corporation for Digital Scholarship, 2010):


Rath (2016) published a case study describing her first-hand experience of setting up an site at an academic library. She uses six criteria to evaluate “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 site, here’s what we experienced:

  1. Cost: While 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 as our best option, with sufficient themes and plug-ins included.
  3. 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).
  5. 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).
  7. Communities, Engagement and Collaboration refers to engaging the audience with the site. Because interactive elements cannot be embedded into the Omeka site (Rath, 2016), we decided to create our own interactive, educational tool on using Javascript. Commenting would have been an excellent way to engage users with the site, but because that feature is only part of the fee-based plans, we weren’t able to use it.
  9. 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.
  11. Website Support: 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.