Creating an Omeka Exhibit

For my project, I created an exhibit within Omeka to provide an example for a tutorial I gave for Fenwick Library at George Mason University. The overall aim for the exhibit was to show the capabilities of Omeka for graduate students on campus. The process of creating the exhibit was intriguing in that the reference librarians I work with only had a basic understanding of Omeka, and they were looking to me to become the in-house expert of how to build an exhibit. Gunston Hall was chosen primarily because the research librarian for history was in the process of collecting sources for an exhibit, and suggested I look into using the building as my focus.

I spent the first week learning the basic levels of Omeka: entering items, uploading files, changing the appearance, etc. Once I had completed this, I began searching for sources that I could use in a public online exhibit. In searching the Library of Congress, I discovered they had conducted a survey of the building and grounds and posted the imagery on their site. The images were all considered to be public domain because they were created by the Library of Congress, which is a public entity.

Building and creating the exhibit was a time consuming experience. I had almost fifty separate items to create including the sources I used for my narrative, all with their own set of metadata to enter. Organizing these items into an exhibit was a separate conceptual problem. I had a wealth of sources to present as well as historical information to present along with it. I originally had three main pages: the history of Gunston Hall, a gallery of items, and a history of the people involved with constructing the building. After discussing the project with Dr. Robertson, the professor instructing my course, I realized that this made the website far too dense, and split these pages into smaller sections. Feedback from a fellow student agreed that this was a good idea. Once the overall site was built, I continued to fine tune the exhibit by highlighting specifics within the items.

Another area that I decided to include in my exhibit were a series of maps showcasing a specific area of Gunston Hall. The first map utilized the Geolocation plugin created by Omeka, which allowed me to show where Gunston Hall was built in relation to Washington, D.C. The other two maps I created in a separate plugin called Neatline. This plugin allowed me to set a specific plan as the map, and to put items onto the plan. This allowed me to show where a photograph was taken in relation to its surrounding. The Neatline plugin took a couple of hours to understand how it worked, and then a few hours per map to add the plan and related items.

The process of creating this exhibit allowed me to see firsthand how much work is involved in creating even the simplest of exhibits. I enjoyed the work, even when I was overwhelmed with so much information, and provided me with a tool I can use in the future.

To view the exhibit, click here.

To view the Library of Congress sources, click here.

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