Tag Archives: omeka

Behind the Scenes: Building a Digital Exhibit with Omeka

Like all of you, Covid-19 made an abrupt change to my spring semester. Thankfully, my Digital History class was mostly unaffected because the assignments were already web-based. Our final project had us create a digital exhibit using Omeka.net which is a free platform available from the Roy Rosenzweig Center for New Media. As opposed to a historical approach like my project takes, archivists and librarians sometimes use Omeka differently. Instead of creating an exhibit, they might create digital collections as an online repository for digitized materials.

This link will take you to my digital exhibit “Enslavement and Sharecropping in Tallahassee.”

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I built this exhibit based off the work I did in my internship here in Special Collections & Archives. Even with Covid-19’s disruptions to our work, education, and daily lives, we can still find alternatives like this to help our community access collections and research from home. All the primary sources featured in the exhibit come from our archival manuscript collections highlighted in the Enslavement and Sharecropping Research Guide.

What does creating an Omeka site look like? For starters, FSU Libraries has a guide on the subject. Other then setting up the site, we must decide what goes into it as objects. In this case, I wanted to interpret a wide range of primary sources that shows a narrative of how the Florida Territory introduced enslavement and how it developed over our State’s history. When we load an object into the site, we create metadata that records information about the object itself which you can see in this picture. Below is an example item addition for a sharecropping contract.

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Omeka uses the Dublin Core schema which is relatively simple. The site allows users to input the metadata into labelled text boxes, as you can see above, with the option to use HTML for simple text editing. This is where we give the object a title, describe it, tell users who created it, and provide links to digitized versions when available. We also upload a digital file so that users can look at the material being described and so that we can put it in the exhibit.

Once the objects are loaded and the metadata is created, it’s just a matter of arranging them and then writing the descriptive text for them. For this one, I created sections based on chronology: territorial Florida, Antebellum, Reconstruction, and Civil Rights.

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The exhibit sections are created from different “pages.” In a page, you use “boxes” as a tool to integrate images and text in a variety of options and styles. Within these sections, I arranged the objects chronologically with descriptive text next to each of them. Just like a physical exhibit, this is where we would provide some context on the source or tell our audience what makes it unique and valuable for research. Because this exhibit is historical, it is also where I interpret what we can learn from the primary source.

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Including extant projects like this exhibit and our Research Guides, Special Collections & Archives staff are still available for virtual reference. While our physical spaces remain closed at this time, if you have any questions about accessing our collections, you can get in touch with us via email at lib-specialcollections@fsu.edu. We also have a range of items in our Digital Library that everyone can access remotely.

Earth Day 50th Anniversary

Today, April 22 2020, is the 50th anniversary of the first celebration of Earth Day. The first Earth Day in 1970 was a major mobilizing event of inestimable historical significance. The event was such a success because it came at the right time as awareness of human effects on the balance of nature was growing. Rachel Carson’s 1962 best-selling book, Silent Spring, laid the groundwork for a growing concern over man’s negative impact on the environment. 1969 was a year rife with high-profile environmental disasters; there was a major oil spill off the coast of southern California and Ohio’s Cuyahoga river caught fire. At the end of the year, concern for the environment rivaled concern for the Vietnam War.

Senator Gaylord Nelson (Wisconsin) announced his intentions for an Earth Day event six months prior to April 1970, which was enough time for the excitement to spread and for countless groups to become involved. A wide range of participants helped to organize Earth Day events and the offerings varied from speeches, teach-ins, movies, workshops, and more. The event inspired lifelong environmentalists and lead to the formation of many new environmental groups, lobbies, and services.

Florida State University participated in the first Earth day with a series of events on Landis Green including speeches, information booths, music, and movies. The theme was “Do Not Ask For Whom the Bell Tolls, It Tolls For Thee.”

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Both photos from the April 22, 1970 edition of the Florida Flambeau. Available digitally at http://purl.flvc.org/fsu/fd/FSU_Flambeau_04221970

The immediate effects of Earth Day were significant: the founding of the Environmental Protection Agency, the passing of the Clean Air Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act. The power of Earth Day extends beyond the day itself, the momentum gained by the event leant credibility to events that followed and engendered a generation of activists.

The twentieth anniversary celebration of Earth Day in 1990 united people in countries on all seven continents in unprecedented numbers to voice their concerns for environmental issues. Whereas the 1970 celebration was a grassroots effort, the 1990 celebration was run like a political campaign with advisors and consultants and a budget 15 times larger than the original event. The worldwide turnout for Earth Day 1990 was double what the organizers expected, the event united the most participants ever concerned about a single cause. The greatest success of Earth Day 1990 was the worldwide participation and attention it brought to the environmental issues plaguing the entire world. Environmental troubles were no longer simply viewed as the problem of white Americans but as a growing global concern.

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Enter https://fsuearthday50.omeka.net/

Florida State University Libraries Special Collections & Archives and FSU Sustainable Campus are celebrating the 50th anniversary of Earth Day with the launch of a digital exhibit, Earth Day 50: Environmental Activism at FSU and Beyond. This exhibit was originally curated to be installed as a physical exhibit in Strozier library, but installation was postponed due to covid-19. Changing to a digital platform allows the story of Earth Day and environmental activism at FSU to continue to be shared. Please visit https://fsuearthday50.omeka.net/to learn more about the celebration of Earth Day at FSU, in Florida, and beyond.

Sources:

Cahn, Robert, and Patricia Cahn. “Did Earth Day Change the World?” Environment 32, no. 7 (September 1990): 16–20. https://doi.org/10.1080/00139157.1990.9929039.

Rome, A. “The Genius of Earth Day.” Environmental History 15, no. 2 (2010): 194–205. doi:10.1093/envhis/emq036.

Earth Day Exhibit Goes Digital

As mentioned in a previous post, the current exhibit in the Special Collections & Archives Exhibit room was uninstalled in preparation for installing a new exhibit, “Earth Day 50”. Unfortunately, Strozier Library and FSU campus closures have forced us to explore different platforms for sharing exhibits that can be viewed safely from home.

Maybe you have had to change directions on an intended presentation or exhibit as well? Here in Special Collections & Archives, we have chosen to continue with our exhibit plans by going digital and using Omeka to share the items intended for our physical exhibit.

Omeka is a free open-source web publishing platform that allows users to create and share digital collections. Special Collections & Archives maintains a research guide with helpful tips and tutorials for getting started with Omeka if you are interested in going digital as well.

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Be on the lookout for a post announcing the opening of the digital exhibit, Earth Day 50, very soon!

Digital Exhibit Now Available

For those unable to visit the Heritage Museum, an online exhibit has been created for the Heritage Protocol & University Archives project Degrees of Discovery. The digital exhibit includes additional items and information not included in the physical exhibit, providing new understandings about the various scientific developments on campus over the years.

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Digitizing a chemistry notebook on the Atiz book scanner.

Creating the digital exhibit offered an entirely fresh perspective of the objects I had curated for Degrees of Discovery. The first step was to determine the best way to view each object on a screen, rather than in person. Staging a physical exhibit requires an awareness of how items play off each other’s size, color, and texture; because digital items are more likely to be viewed individually, the focus lies with image clarity and whether the digital copy is a faithful representation of the original. After digitizing each object using scanners and conventional photography, I sat down to compile the information that would help people understand the objects they would now see on a computer screen. Rather than interpreting the items in relation to each other to tell a story, I needed to objectively observe each object in terms of size, genre, creator, and subject matter. The information I could glean from the item became its metadata. If you’ve used a catalog record in a library, you’ve seen metadata; it’s the information that describes the item, like the date of publication or its place in a larger series. This metadata allows users to search for objects if they have a subject, keyword, or title already in mind. Though arguably less creative than the initial curatorial development, the creation and implementation of the objects’ metadata is what makes it possible for users to find what they’re looking for.

To explore the digital exhibit, visit degreesofdiscovery.omeka.net.

Giving an Omeka Site a New Home

Slizewski-Smith, Erika, “St. Peter's Anglican Church, Tallahassee, Florida,” Religion @ Florida State University, accessed February 7, 2017, http://religionatfsu.omeka.net/items/show/222.
Slizewski-Smith, Erika, “St. Peter’s Anglican Church, Tallahassee, Florida,” Religion @ Florida State University, accessed February 7, 2017, http://religionatfsu.omeka.net/items/show/222.

Special Collections & Archives maintains an Omeka instance mostly to be used with the Museum Objects classes that use our physical exhibit space periodically and also need to include a digital exhibit with their work. Our hope is that someday the FSU Digital Library will be able to handle the digital exhibit needs for these classes. However, for the moment, Omeka is our tool for this need.

We were approached a few months ago by a professor looking for a new home for his Omeka site that classes had used to collect information and share his student’s work from Religion classes at FSU. As these collections fit in well with the collecting areas of Special Collections & Archives, particularly as we expand our collections of local religion institutional records, this Omeka site was a good candidate for migration to the Special Collections Omeka instance.

Happily, Omeka provides a plug-in that allows for the migration of materials between Omeka instances to be a fairly painless process. The site has been migrated (mostly) successfully. A few lingering problems with video files is being working on by the professor and some Library IT staff. In the meantime, enjoy this new addition to the FSU Special Collections & Archives Omeka lineup, Religion @ Florida State University.