I must admit that Omeka proved to be a very engaging, user-friendly tool for assembling a variety of digital artifacts into a reasonably clear storyline. In keeping with the topic of my dissertation, D-Day, I selected jpeg images of two D-Day-related primary-source documents and four photographs to provide a brief storyline for the events on that day. Uploading each item and completing the meta-data fields was a breeze, even though I was not certain what information to include in certain fields for selected items. In those cases, I just defaulted to “D-Day, 6 June 1944.”
Setting up the site’s appearance from the Omeka dashboard was not a problem, but I did not really like the few available appearance themes. I would have preferred more information about how to customize the appearance of my public site. I relied heavily on Omeka’s online how-to page (http://info.omeka.net) in order to build my exhibit and upload items, but I was not able to find anything in the guide that explained how I could revise the site’s appearance.
The biggest problem I encountered with creating the page was developing an exhibit after I had entered my six items. Again, the Omeka how-to page was not very effective in describing how to proceed. I was not able to find a direct pathway to creating an exhibit through the various tabs and menus. In the end, I managed to assemble my exhibit mostly through dumb luck and by “test-clicking” the various tabs on the site. I found the page that allowed me to choose the “gallery” option for my items, which is how I had wanted to portray the images on the public site. My intent was to present the user with a grouping of panels in a specific order that would facilitate a sequential, linear narrative of D-Day; and, somehow, I was able to do it. Unfortunately, the exhibit did not “pop up” immediately after clicking on my public site’s link. Instead, the gallery exhibit was buried under the “browse exhibits” link. But, when I clicked on that link, the gallery I wanted to see was there. So much for small victories!
I was impressed by Omeka’s ability to sustain the overall quality of the images, even after uploading. Some of the jpeg images were small, and I was afraid of significant distortion once Omeka converted them into thumbnails that, when clicked upon, would increase in size. But, alas, my fears went unrealized, and the storyboard effect of the gallery was all the more appealing because of each image’s crispness.
The best layout for the kinds of stories I would tell on Omeka is the gallery version. A visitor to the site gets an immediate sense of the storyline’s scope and scale by seeing in one collage all the images associated with the exhibit. He or she can then follow the storyline by clicking sequentially on each image and reading the description from the meta-data page or jump to those images the visitor finds most interesting.
Overall, I enjoyed my first experience with Omeka. Often, I find myself blogging about numerous problems I’ve encountered negotiating different digital tools, mainly because I seem to lack that “computer sense” so many others seem to have. But, in this case, I spent to bulk of my time actually creating something with Omeka that I enjoyed doing and that visitors to the site with an interest in World War Two might enjoy. Thus, this blog will probably be my shortest one of the semester, since I invested the balance of my practicum time in using the digital tool in question. The modest product of my humble effort with Omeka appears at the following Web link: