Blog Post

Online collections and exhibitions

In our most recent Temple HASTAC meeting, we generally discussed online collections and exhibitions, and specifically discussed Omeka. Through my short time as a HASTAC scholar, I have been inspired to take my dissertation in some interesting directions, instead of sticking to the traditional text-only-based format. Because I am completing a structural breakdown and analysis of Facebook, I thought it would be interesting to create a companion website that displays my breakdown of the site, along with my analyses and my informants' comments. In my mind, the site will allow those social media users who would not normally read, or have access to, academic papers the chance to have a more informed awareness of the media that they use daily. 

We were introduced to the very basics of Omeka, so I understand how to create collections and exhibits. I am looking to create a carousel-like graphic that users can scroll through to see the different architectural parts. Then, when a visitor clicks on the part, a large window will pop out that displays (in a creative way) my thoughts and my infomants' thoughts. Is Omeka a good choice here? Or is there another platform that you suggest? Has anyone done anything like this before? Any suggestions for me? I know how to code a little, so I was looking into also completing this process with just straight html, although it seems it can get a little hairy. Any feedback would be awesome, technical or otherwise. Thanks! :)



Hi Angela, thanks for your brain-storming post. I use Omeka in my own research and am currently developing a project for use in the classroom setting. 

Your project sounds really interesting, but I am having trouble picturing the site you're imagaining. I wonder if you have sketched out any designs you might be able to share? From my understanding of your project, Omeka could work, but you may be somewhat limited in your display options without learning PHP. "Straight HTML" wouldn't allow you to create the dynamic interface and interact with the database the way you want it. Thankfully, if you already have a basis in HTML, you can learn PHP - though I would argue it's more difficult than HTML. w3schools has a tutorial and sandbox space here: Learning PHP in stages as you work with Omeka is possible, but definitely figure out if Omeka is the right platform for you first by sketching out your designs and laying out the site's organization.

Hopefully other commenters will have ideas about other possible platforms that may require less coding to get the look and interactivity you're hoping. 

I look forward to reading updates on your project and seeing any design sketches as you come up with them! 


Thank you so much for your comments and suggestions, Danielle. Sketching something is a great idea. I will have to put something together and upload it!

Writing "straight HTML" was just sloppy explanation on my part. I am familiar with PHP. What I really should have said was: I was thinking about trying to complete the project without using some type of template or platform like Omeka.

Without a sketch to help, I will try to explain a little more what I am thinking. I am breaking down Facebook into its constituent parts. So, for example, Sign-up Page, Timeline, Likes, Friends, Cookies, etc. I will be analyzing each of these parts and exploring how they "define" ideas to users such as identity, authenticity, agency, and anonymity. This analysis is to begin the exploration process of how sites impel users to perform in certain ways, often depending on the information the site has already collected about each user. Using what I have learned from the structural analysis, I will then speak with users to learn how they view each of these parts, and consequently how they have come to define notions of identity, authenticity, agency, and anonymity.

I am imagining the main page to have a carousel display of each of the parts. The user can spin the display around to see each of the parts. The user can also then choose to click on a part to learn more about it. Once she clicks, a window would pop out (assuming I would need Java here?). The pop-out window would include a brief summary of the architectural aspect along with my analyses and my informants' responses.

I have also been toying around with the idea of making the site look like the Facebook interface and then allowing the user to click on the parts with a similar pop-out window of explanations.

My general hope is that visitors find the site really simple and accessible. I want to mostly attract people who would never otherwise have a reason to read this type of academic literature. 

Thanks again!!! I will get to sketching! :)