Creating Exhibits in Omeka
Omeka is a free, flexible, and open source web-publishing platform for the display of library, museum, archives, and scholarly collections and exhibitions. Its “five-minute setup” makes launching an online exhibition as easy as launching a blog.
All the files (bundled as a zip file) to carry out this exercise are available here: OmekaTutorialFiles. You can download them, unzip them and save them to your desktop to work with them.
You will need to have created a new account at http://omeka.net, and downloaded the archive of files at http://digitalnomad.ie/introtoomeka.zip as discussed in the Introductory exercise. If you have not done so please so do now.
This tutorial is available as a PDF file (also included in the zip file) so you can print out and follow along on your own system.
An initial version of this tutorial was created in November 2009 and has been most recently revised in September 2019.
Step 1 – Log in to Omeka.net
If you aren’t logged into your Omeka instance from an Intro to Omeka, log back in by visiting your site and accessing the admin interface. The Dashboard is always accessible by appending ‘/admin’ to your site URL. e.g.: http://mysitename.omeka.net/admin.
Step 2 – Create a New Exhibit
When you view your dashboard you will see a summary of your items, collections, exhibits and currently selected theme.
We have no exhibits currently defined. In fact, we don’t yet have the capability to even create exhibits. Let’s fix that now. As you may remember from the first tutorial, when we want to add functionality to Omeka, we can activate plug-ins. Exhibit Builder is one such functionality. To enable this Plug-In, choose Plugins from the top menu and click the Install button beside the Exhibit Builder.
When you do this you will be taken to a configuration screen for the Exhibit Builder.
The configuration options for the Exhibit Builder are rather limited – simply click Save Changes and lets begin to build our first exhibit. To do so click the button on the left menu labelled ‘Exhibits‘
Although we have no exhibits (yet) the button to create one is right there. Choose ‘Add an Exhibit’. Much as we have already seen, you are asked to create metadata describing the new Exhibit. The Exhibit is in fact a digital object itself. The various digital objects (items) I have provided for use in this tutorial relate to the McAteer family who emigrated from Ireland and found success in Canada in the pub trade.
Choose a Title for your exhibit and a short memorable ‘slug’ that will appear in the URL address for the exhibit. You can input information about the credits and provide a short description about the exhibition to aid potential users – a short, catchy abstract if you wish.
Note that you can choose to use the same theme as the wider Omeka site or a particular theme (choose one different from your wider Omeka site) to create a unique look and feel for it. Make it public, and featured (by clicking the checkboxes so labelled) and then save changes. When you do you will see that you now have a shiny new exhibit listed. Excellent!
Step 3 – Add a Page to the Exhibit
Exhibits are composed of dynamic pages that combine items from your repository with narrative to tell a story. Best practise in creating an exhibit would involve sketching out your objectives and structure in advance – for purposes of this tutorial we are going to work to a predefined path.
Choose the Edit link from below the Exhibit title and scroll to the bottom of the project metadata page. You will see a button inviting you to ‘Add Page’. Go ahead – press it.
Note: Exhibits are composed of individual pages which are themselves composed of a series of blocks each of which can contain items drawn from Omeka as well as text and captions that you create to narrate your exhibit. This schematic illustrates this hierarchy.
You will now see a Page Builder screen. Pages are composed of blocks of text and items. Give your page a title (which will be used for navigation) and a slug for use in the URL. I like to start off with an introduction.
To begin creating content we choose a layout for the first block. Let’s kick off by choosing a ‘File with Text and then selecting ‘Add New Block’ beneath this section.The new block will provide options as below”.
Clicking the ‘Add Item’ will let you select from all of the items in your collection. Choose an image of interest – in this example I am starting with an image of the patriarch of the McAteer family, John. In the introduction I will summarise the larger story to be presented. There is a particularly nice one taken in 1907:
Omeka then allows you to add a caption to the item you insert. You can then add additional text that will be work with the item. To help add this text easily you will find a text file ‘ExhibitSource.txt’ which provides useful (and semi-real) text for use during this tutorial.
Final to the page construction you can add additional blocks containing additional items, text or combination son the two. Note that you can add plug-ins with functionality to Omeka that make additional blocks available for your pages.
You can also fine-tune the various layout objects you insert by choosing layout functions. This allows you to orient your images to the left, right or centre and provide limited formatting. We have chosen to have the image of John McAteer displayed to the left of the text. We have chosen to use the full-size image (smaller versions of the image have been automatically created for us by Omeka). We are centering our captions for the images.
When you have finished the page construction, you save the changes to your page. You can also save the changes and immediately create another page. In this way, you can build your exhibit in sequence. Save the page and then choose to View the Public Page and preview the page you have created.
I’ve provided some material to help create additional pages. As you do so, the page titles appear in the navigation above the page. The item and the text you create appear nicely arranged on the page.
Step 4 – Navigating Exhibits
Now we have the beginnings of an exhibit. If you visit the home page of your Omeka site you will see that users can choose from browsing items, collections and now exhibits.
If a user chooses the first exhibit we have created they are taken to the home screen of that exhibit. Note that it has its own distinct look as we chose when completing the earlier exhibit setup. In the text file previously mentioned you can begin to create additional pages as expanded in this support file. As you do, the pages will appear in a menu to the right.
Our single page is listed to the right and as we add pages to an exhibit they are automatically added to this right menu allowing for users to navigate to specific pages as you can see in this screen.
Step 5 – Adding Additional Pages
Return to our Admin Dashboard and note that we now also have 1 exhibit indicated as created. If you click on the digit for the 1 exhibit we have you will get a list of exhibits for further editing. Click the Edit button under our exhibit and we can start to add all the pages we would like to have in our exhibit.
From the Exhibit detail screen choose to add a new page after the single existing page. We will call it ‘Early Days’. Choose a useful ‘slug’ and then choose ‘Save and Add Another Page‘. In a similar fashion, we can quickly add all of the pages that we will have in our exhibit. The complete list appears in the Text file we downloaded earlier which also contains useful text to populate the pages. Don’t enter the text yet, but do create a couple more pages. When you do so, you can choose to ‘View Public Page’. This allows us to see the exhibit as our users will. You should see something similar to below. As you can note a list of pages now appears down the side of the Exhibit display.
Additionally, as pages are explored, the user can navigate via forward and backlinks automatically created by Omeka. A user can choose to follow the narrative from the list of the pages or as you can see below move through sequentially via the arrows to the next sequential page below the screen.
I will now leave it to you to populate and play with the exhibit. You have the text and there are a wealth of items available that we ingested in the first tutorial. Go forth and see what you can create.
Step 6 – Adjusting the Presentation
Pages can be re-ordered and edited at any time to alter your delivery. Choose to ‘edit’ the Exhibit again from the list of exhibits.
All of your pages are shown below the description of the exhibit itself on this screen. Note that a page can be clicked and then dragged to another position in the order. The same holds true on individual pages when you wish to reorder blocks of text and items.
Additionally, you can change the appearance of the specific exhibit by adjusting its theme settings. To do this, choose a new theme from the Theme: popup menu. When you do so, a Configure button will appear to the right. Click this button.
The configuration screen will allow you to change the logo on your exhibit screen, footer and copyright text as well as some aspects of your styling. These depend on the particular theme chosen. You can also alter the way the navigation menu between pages is displayed. Try changing the page navigation style to Full-Width from Sidebar, save your changes and then choose View Public Page to see the results.
When you do you should see all pages now listed (and contained in menu boxes) across the top of the screen rather than down the side. Additional modifications can be made and experimented with now that you know where to find them.
A fully populated version is available at:
https://eireidium.omeka.net/exhibits/show/mcateers if you want to see the potential results.
You now have a lively and engaging repository of digital objects constructed using Omeka. Enjoy!