New Free Platform Aims To Ease Sharing of Digital Collections

A new Web platform for publishing collections and exhibitions online got a nod of fame last week when it was referenced in The Washington Times profile of George Mason University's Center for History and New Media, which the paper called "at the forefront of the new wave of collecting history." The free, open-source platform is named Omeka, a Swahili word meaning "to display or lay out goods or wares; to speak out; to spread out; to unpack."

The goals of the development effort are to create a platform that lets users publish Web content with a system that is low-cost and easy to use; to provide a standards-based, interoperable system that allows users to share and use digital content in multiple ways; and to facilitate the building of communities around objects and primary sources.

Omeka, which is currently undergoing private beta testing, includes the following features:

  • A metadata structure and standards-based design that is accessible and interoperable.
  • Professional-looking exhibit sites that showcase collections without hiring outside designers.
  • Theme-switching for changing the look and feel of an exhibit in a few clicks.
  • Plugins for geolocation and bi-lingual sites.
  • Tagging to enable users to add keywords to items in a collection or exhibit.
  • Blogging to allow the site to keep in touch with users through timely postings about collections and events.
  • Syndicating to keep users updated about content with RSS feeds.

The Center is working with the Minnesota Historical Society to plan, design, test, evaluate and disseminate Omeka in four phases through September 2010. It will be released under General Public License, version 2.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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