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Omeka: First and Second Impressions

Omeka: First and Second Impressions

After Temple’s DSC Omeka workshop, I wanted to take this opportunity to share my previous work with Omeka, discuss some questions regarding online exhibition practices, and foresee the possibilities of Omeka’s Neatline app for my dissertation project.


Previous Omeka Work

My first introduction to Omeka was in the Digital History class here at Temple. I used the platform to exhibit my research to understand the dramatic rise and spread of the Dresden-based anti-immigrant group Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the Occident (PEGIDA). Why PEGIDA? Why at that moment in time? And why in Dresden? While developing a CartoDB map was the main focus of my project, I used the Omeka site to create an exhibit entitled “PEGIDA and Nazi Memories” to explore the similarities in this group’s development, as explained through tweets, with the rise of Nazism, which relied on historical materials from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.


Online Exhibition Practices

Beyond aesthetic quibbles, I didn’t encounter any Omeka-specific limitations. That said many of my content decisions were shaped by the fear of violating copyright. The inclusion of contemporary artifacts—e.g., a collection of images, articles, and video from various news sources—would have been a welcome addition to my exhibit. However, determining where the line of fair use ends and copyright violation begins is a difficult task, and it seems particularly difficult when dealing with contemporary topics. So I put this question to all of you: what is the best strategy for dealing with the exhibition of contemporary (read: copyrighted) material that doesn’t sacrifice intellectual exploration?


Workshop Takeaways

Moving forward, I’m most interested in exploring the possible applications of Omega’s Neatline plugin for my own work. I explored the demos offered by the site and was really struck by the Black Liberation 1969 Archive’s use of documents and narratives oriented in space to tell the story of the 1969 sit-ins at Swarthmore. Other examples can be found here. From these demos, it seems Neatline is Omeka’s version of CartoDB’s Odyssey in that it allows online content creators to tell stories with maps and timelines—to tie narratives to places, an important connection for my social memory work. 



I'm also struggling with this question of fair use/copyright. In fact, my entire corpus for text analysis is made up of copyrighted materials. Thus far, I've gone the route of notification/permission asking from copyright holders, but that doesn't always go well. This is something that definitely needs to be explored more.


Great that you had prior experience with Omeka. Your work and AJ's both engage fair use issues, though in different ways. For AJ, there's not question that it's covered by fair use, but Digital Rights Management is getting in the way. What you describe might be addressed in the Best Practices in Fair Use pamphlets produced by American University's Center for Media and Society. See their pamphlets. I think, for the most part, they have you covered, but let me know what you find out.