Why should you choose Omeka?

Hi All, I know this is a big question, but probably the answer is simpler than expected.

I have been working with wordpress and drupal for a long time. I am now studying Omeka which seems to be the best choice for certain clients (museums, libraries etc…). But I would like to hear from you, or at least be redirected where I can find more info about… why to choose Omeka. What is it that really makes it different from wordpress, or drupal? Is there anything that Omeka offers in a truly unique way and that makes it the best choice for libraries, museums, and digital archives in general?

Thank you.

Thanks for your question, Tomeka. I’ve been hanging back on answering to see if Omeka users would jump in. Certainly, the view of the project director is a very particular one! In 2010, our colleague Tom Scheinfeldt tried to answer the exact question you’ve posed: Omeka - Omeka and Its Peers From a distance of fifteen years, much of that is still relevant. But, I might articulate some specific things about the ways that the software is designed that might be useful to your thinking.

One way to think about the difference between Omeka (Classic and S) and WordPress and Drupal is that the concept of Items are at the heart of the systems and the building process. While the core elements of WordPress are the “posts” and "pages,’ and Drupal is so amorphous as to be composed of ultimately flexible “nodes,” one cannot do anything useful with Omeka without wanting to create and publish a group of items. For users of Omeka Classic, most of those items tend to be digitized cultural heritage materials. With Omeka S, those items might represent less concrete entities such as events and concepts and they might not have media representations.

Given the centrality of items and the desire of creators to mobilize those items in the services of some type of interpretative context, structured descriptive metadata has also always been deeply tied to items. A user cannot have an item with out metadata – Dublin Core for Classic and a more flexible range of available linked open data vocabularies for S. That tie of items to metadata is not necessarily a given feature with WordPress or Drupal (it could be but it would require intentional engineering by a developer/project team).

Another key element of the data model/philosophy undergirding Omeka is that once a project team has created a group of items, those items can be used/mobilized in many different ways: in a narrative exhibit, in a geospatial browse, in a data visualization, in a lateral method of traversing through items via some appropriate controlled vocabulary.

There are, of course, other things that are important to the Omeka universe that serve the needs of GLAM users:

  • a usable, accessible graphical interface for creating and working with content (unlike a static site generator) that makes it possible for content experts to build out their digital interpretive content without having to work hand in glove with a designer/developer to bring their work into the world
  • a universe of extensions (plugins, modules) that are designed by developers who work with GLAM collections and organizations, unlike the vast number of extensions available for more generalized content management systems
  • the inclusion of a robust REST API to allow for computational access to content

I’m sure that there are other factors and I’d love to hear more from the user/developer community about what they think.

Dear Sharon,
thanks for your answer! Very insightful indeed. I have just redirected to people working with Omeka a client who wanted to redesign his digital archive using wordpress or drupal. I lost the client, but I think I’ve learned something new about Omeka and will start studying it. Sadly, it’s been very hard to find websites based on Omeka that also looked nice in terms of visual design, but this is probably the only weakness I’ve found. Keep up the good work and I hope I’ll be able to start working with Omeka soon!

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I think that you’ll really like what is coming in Omeka S 4.1, in terms of design.

But also, I do want to point you to the showcases and directories for Classic and S for some use examples!