Introduction to Advanced Omeka and Neatline
Neatline is a free, flexible, and open source tool that builds on Omeka to create spatial-temporal narratives that leverage digital collections. It is accesssible, extensible and provides a means to combine a variety of additional textual and visual media to create compelling and engaging digital exhibitions.
In this tutorial, we demonstrate and encourage you to try creating a Neatline exhibition. The steps in this tutorial will guide you through setting up, populating a ddeploying a Neatline exhibit. It builds on experience gained in the Omeka and Creating Omeka Exhibits tutorials. You will require experience in Omeka to work with Neatline – although they actually function in distinctly different ways.
All the files (bundled as a zip file) to carry out this exercise are available here: NeatlineTutorialFiles. You can download them, unzip them and save them to your desktop to work with them.
This tutorial is available as a PDF file (included in the zip file) so you can print out and follow along on your own system.
Version 1.0 of this tutorial was created in October 2016 and has been most recently updated in February 2020.
Planning a Neatline Exhibit
Unlilke other platforms you may have used, the first step in architecting a Neatine-based digital narrative is to plan how you will go about gathering, crafting and deploying your items to tell a story. This is essential to create an environment in which users find an intuitive, engaging and navigable narrative.
This is essentiual because readers can interact with a Neatline Exhibit in at least 3 different ways:
Temporally — Users can select Records when shown on the timeline.
Spatially — Users can select shapes drawn on a map/image to view Records.
Textually — Users can select Records shown in the Waypoints outline or the Text plugin for Neatline.
Thus, it is important to ask (and answer) yourself a few questions before creating a Neatline Exhibit. The following will help plan your narrative:
- What story are you telling?
- How will you integrate your Omeka Items into that story?
- What will appear on your timeline? On your map?
- How will your map be structured?
- What kinds of additional text and media will you include in your Records?
- How will your Records be ordered in Waypoints?
In this tutorial I am going to answer and assume for you, but it is essential to always consider these before heading off. We will carry out 4 specific tasks in this tutorial to give you a flavour of what Netline offers. This will hopefully inspire you to explore further.
Create a Neatline Exhibit
- In the left menu on your Omeka Dashboard, click “Neatline”.
2. Click “Create an Exhibit” to begin creating your exhibit.
3. You will be redirected to a Create Neatline Exhibit Form:
4. Fill in Title, Narrative ( brief overview), and URL Slug. (The URL Slug will be created automatically from your title, but you can edit it once it has been created by Omeka.) Your URL Slug appears
Your URL Slug can be anything, but it should be short, cannot have spaces, and should draw on wording in your exhibit Title.
5. In the Widgets text box, select the Waypoints widget to add it to the projec t. This extension allows Neatline to add specific points on the map corresponding to each record/Omeka Item.
6. Select a Default Spatial Layer from the drop-down menu: OpenStreetMaps in this instance. This will be the map on which you draw your Record locations. (You can always return to this page to change your map later.)
7. Click “Save Exhibit” at the bottom of the page.
8. You will be redirected to the Neatline Browse Exhibits page. On this page, under the name of your Neatline Exhibit, you can click “Exhibit Settings” to return to the Exhibit’s setup page. You can also preview the project as the public would see it by clicking “Public View” or “Fullscreen View”, and you can delete your Exhibit by clicking “Delete”. You have actually created your first Neatline exhibit.
It is important to pause here as this where Neatline possibly deviates from how you may expect things to work.
If you click on Public View you will see what your users would see. Go ahead and click it, there is an exhibit there. Not overly exciting but it’s something.
Fullscreen View is a shortcut to what your users would see above if they click on FullScreen View.
Exhibit Settings will return you to the screen we just came from that adjusts the various metadata and global set tings for this Neatline exhibit.
Import Items is a way to bulk load items from your Omeka collections to place on the map and/or timeline in your Neatline exhibit.
Delete is rather obvious, but dangerous. Delete it and there’s no getting it back.
Clicking the title of the Neatline exhibit will take you to the Neatline editor and is where the bulk of your activity will happen.
Adding Content to Neatline
So…we want to begin adding information to our Neatline Exhibit.
- Click on the title of your Exhibit on the Neatline Browse Exhibit page.
Note: You may want to right click and open your Exhibit in a new tab so that you can easily return to your Omeka Dashboard while still editing your Neatline Exhibit. You may also wish to right click on “Fullscreen View” to open the public view of the Exhibit in a second tab that you can continually review as your create your Exhibit. This is very handy to see the realtime effects of your edits.
This is the Neatline editor. You should see the base layer image filling the right side of your browser window and a menu on the left side of your window similar to the one above. There’s no information here – merely a blank slate waiting for you to start building your narrative.
You can now populate your Neatline Exhibit with Items from your Omeka collection. But, before we do this let’s set up our default parameters for the exhibit.
Note: Each field has a ? by its label. At any point you can click on these to get information on what kind of data that field needs and how to enter data into that field.
2. In the left menu select Styles from the left menu. As this is a transatlantic story, zoom and drah the map so that the north atlantic including Ireland and Eastern Canada are visible. To have Neatline aim our viewers at our stort wer can select the view they see when they first come to the site.
3. Select the ‘Use Current Viewport as Default’. This willcapture both the longitude and latitude of the centre of the map and the zoom settings that you are currently using and copy those into the Map Focus and Map Zoom fields.
4. We won’t worry about any of the other settings for now. So click save at the bottom of this menu.
5. Now we are ready to start adding some content. One way to do this is to select individual records from your Omeka collections and add them one by one. This is accomplished by selecting Records and then the New Record Button.
When you do this you be presented with a search box that allows you to locate specific records in Omeka. If you have a lot of records or want add a few to the Neatline exhibit, there is an easier way.
6. Click the Back to Omeka buttom/arrow at the top of the left hand menu.
7. This returns us to the Neatline Exhibit Browser. Here we can choose to Import Items.
8. From this screen we can add records from specific collections, ranges of ID’s, type of objects or by free-form tags we have entered. For the sake of this workshop I have added a tag ‘neatline’ to all the items we want. Enter ‘neatline’ in the Search by Tags field and click Import Items.
9. You will now see a number of items totally 10 indicated which lets us know we have been successful. Click the Exhibit title to return to the Neatline editor. You will now see a list of records created and populated for you to work with.
Adding a Timeline
We have told a two-dimensional story, engaging, but it is easy to add an additional narrative using Neatline’s timeline browser.
- Add the SIMILE Timeline Widget to your Omeka project by returning to the Exhibit Settings.
2. In the Widgets field click and add SIMILE TImeline and then click the Save Exhibit button. Then click the Exhibit Title to go back to the editor. You will now see a blank timeline displayed at the bottom of the page.
3. Click “Plugins” > “SIMILE Timeline” from the top left menu.. This form allows you to customize your timeline’s appearance. Enter the Default Date ‘1890-01-01‘. This date could mark the earliest date in your narrative, or it could mark the midpoint in your narrative. Dates in Neatline must be formatted in the following way:
For CE: YYYY (e.g. 0500)
For BCE: -YYYYYY (e.g. -000700)
This date is a rough middle one for the narrative we are building.
3. Select your time Interval Unit, which dictates how the timeline is segmented: by Millenium, Century, Decade, etc. If your Items span a longer time period, you will want to choose an interval that will group Neatline Records closer together on the timeline. Choose Decade.
4. Interval Pixels controls the amount of space between Interval Units. 100 pixels is the default. To create more space between Interval Units, enter a number greater than 100 in the Interval Pixels textbox. To create less space between Interval Units, enter a number less than 100 in the Interval Pixels textbox. In our case 30 is appropriate (if a slight bit messy).
5. Track Height, defaulted at 30 pixels, controls the height distance between Records appearing on the timeline. Best heights are between 20-50 pixels but will depend on the frequency of events and number of pixels between intervals. Maximum height is 500 pixels, and minimum is 0.
6. Similarly, Tape Height is the thickness in pixels (default is 10) of a line that shows the presence of an event (such as a monarch’s reign) between a start and end date. Optimum heights occur between 3-40 pixels but will depend on Track height. I suggest experimenting with Tape Height and Track Height after you have added all your data to your Neatline Exhibit.
10. In the top menu, click “Item”. From the empty dropdown menu, search for and select the item you wish to add. Click “Save”.
Again in the top menu, click “Text”. If you created an Omeka Item, the Title field will be filled with that title. Fill in the Slug, Title, and Body fields. The Body field should contain the relevant part of your textual argument for that Record/Item. (For example: This would contain the text for your Introduction Neatline Record; It could also include text explaining the significance of a particular Item that you are including in your Exhibit.) Click “Save”.
To add points, lines, or polygons on the map to your Record: In the top menu, click “Map”. In “Drawing Tools”, you can choose to draw a point, line, or polygon on the map. Choose to draw a point, line, or polygon by clicking on the appropriate radio button.
Draw on the map by:
Point — click once where you want a point to be.
Line — click once to create a starting point. Move your mouse to the ending point, and double click to end the line. To draw a line with a change in direction, or a corner, click once and move your mouse to the next point that you want your line to go.
Polygon — click once to establish the first corner of the polygon. Then click once on each of the other corners. When you reach the last corner, double click to close the polygon.
Regular Polygon — Set the number of sides you wish your regular polygon to have. Click and hold your mouse down over the place where you wish the center point of the polygon to be. Then drag your mouse away from the center to enlarge the polygon. Release the mouse button when your polygon has reached the shape you want.
Note that you can create multiple shapes for one Record. If you need to modify a shape after you’ve created it, select the appropriate tool (Modify, Rotate, Resize, Drag, Delete). To remove all shapes from your Record, click “Clear all Geometry.”
To add your Record to the timeline and waypoints, and to customize the appearance of your shapes: In the top menu, click “Style”. This section will allow you to adjust your Record’s shape’s colors, opacities and dimensions. You can also add imagery or other media to your Record, assign start and end dates to your Record, (remember that there is special notation; see the link on the previous page!) and control the visibility (focus and zoom) of your map. As with setting the overall Exhibit, you can click “Use Current Viewport as Default” to set your Record to show a particular view on the map.
In the Widgets textbox, add the Widgets (SIMILE Timeline and/or Waypoints) in which you want your Record to appear.
In the dates section add the Start Date for your Record to show your Record as a point on the timeline. Add an End Date to show your Record as a span of time on the timeline. Remember the required formatting:
For CE: YYYY (e.g. 0500)
For BCE: -YYYYYY (e.g. -000700)
If you do not add the SIMILE Timeline Widget to your Record but you do give your Record a Start and/or End Date: the Record will not appear on the timeline but the timeline will orient itself to the Record’s date(s) when users click on the Record.
When you are finished adjusting the styles for your Record, click “Save”. Then scroll to the top of the left section and click the X to return to the main editor view. The Record you created now appears under the “New Record” button. You can click on the Record to make changes later or to delete it.
Optional: Replace color points on a map with thumbnail images:
Paste a URL for the image file (must end in .jpg or .png) into the “Point Imagery Field” in a Record’s Style menu.
Note that thumbnails are small. It is recommended that you use an easily identifiable image–perhaps cut from a much larger image–to ensure your audience can understand the image.
Repeat all steps in 4. to add more Records.
Include a Bibliography Record at the end of your Neatline Exhibit. This Record can appear only in Waypoints and should include your Chicago Manual of Style bibliography in the Record’s Body field.
When you have finished adding information to your Exhibit, click “Back to Omeka”. To view your Exhibit click “Public View” or “Fullscreen View” beneath your Neatline Exhibit’s title.
If you haven’t done so, click “Exhibit Settings” under your Exhibit’s title, scroll to the bottom of the page, and check the box under “Public” to make your Neatline Exhibit publicly available online. Click “Save”.
If you do not make your Exhibit public, your audience will only be able to see the Exhibit if they are logged in to this Omeka site. We currently only grant login privileges to students, staff, and faculty who are creating projects in Omeka and/or Neatline.
You can return to your Omeka items and collection, as well as your Neatline Exhibit, at any time to make changes or to delete your work.
But wait! There’s more …