Saved by the Cloud

I’ve been playing around with Omeka.net, the hosted version of the digital collections platform Omeka, and have fallen hard for it.

A number of months ago, my university partnered with the National University of Ireland at Galway to find a new home for an annotated catalog of letters and primary documents from the Vatican Archives. It turns out that online access to the collection was in danger due to the financial troubles in Ireland, specifically, that the funding for the server and the IT staff required to support it was going away.

So, my library offered its assistance and I began exploring the options.

The ideal platform would have to have staying power, be relatively cheap and satisfy the feature list as closely as possible from the old website. Also desirable, of course, would be that it would use web standards, be simple to maintain and require no IT support.

Fortunately, this was happening just after the folks at George Mason University had turned their open source Omeka platform into a hosted service. Omeka is a platform designed around familiar web publishing conventions similar to WordPress, so for administrators, it would be quite easy. However, the traditional in-house server-based version would require at least one full-time IT staff member who could configure a LAMP server, install and configure Omeka and then keep it updated and running.

That would be impossible at my university where no server was available (or at least no production servers) to the library and where PHP (which Omeka is based on) is frowned upon.

But, with the hosted version coming online, Omeka.net, we could meet all of our criteria with additional benefits:

  • No server required…just sign up for an account and you’re ready to get started
  • No IT staff required
  • Simple item and collection management through web forms, making it possible for the researchers to continue adding to their collection without further assistance
  • A growing list of plugins, including CSV imports, Dublin Core mapping, etc. to meet most of the feature requirements
  • OAI-PMH interoperability, making it possible for the collection to be harvested by other systems and uses
  • Plus, the collection automatically rolls up into the growing universe of other Omeka.net collections, enhancing SEO and find-ability

The only real shortcomings of the system were its very limited theming and some missing plugins, such as faceted browsing and timeline features. However, it’s clearly early days for this blossoming platform and I expect good things to be added in the near future.

The live version will go online soon after we finalize a few graphics and textual decisions. But the collection is now safe and sound and poised to grow and develop in a stable and promising platform.

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One thought on “Saved by the Cloud

  1. Pingback: Library as Digital Consultancy | Fail!lab

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