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Digital Collection Projects

This guide is designed to assist students with completing digital collection class projects.

What is Omeka?

Omeka is a simple web publishing system built by and for scholars that is used by hundreds of archives, historical societies, libraries, museums, and individual researchers and teachers to create searchable websites for digital collections.  If you have a digital collection of primary sources that you want to publish online in a scholarly way, you'll want to consider Omeka.

"Omeka" (pronounced oh-MEH-ka) is a Swahili word meaning "to display or lay out wares."

Omeka was developed by the Roy Rosezweig Center for History and New Media beginning in 2006; Omeka 1.0 was officially released for public use in June 2009.  Omeka is a non-profit project; its funding comes from a variety of US agencies and foundations.  

This guide is based on the following blog post:
Introduction to Omeka - Lesson Plan. (2013, December 11). In Retrieved January 5, 2017, from

Hosted or self-hosted?

There are two ways of using Omeka: the self-hosted software that can be downloaded at, and the hosted version that is available at

Self-Hosted (

  • Free, open source software that can be installed on a web hosting server
  • University of Calgary Library hosts an instance of Omeka for class projects
  • For other projects, the Omeka team has a number of suggestions for selecting an external host
  • Allows you to fully customize the look and feel of the site as and to create as many different sites as you wish
  • Requires a fair bit of knowledge and time

Hosted (

  • Graduated pricing model based on space requirements
  • Trial option available
  • Requires much less technical knowledge, infrastructure, and labour
  • Limits of space and functionality

Basic Omeka features and definitions

This video outlines the various components of an "item" within Omeka.  Run time 3:29.

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This video describes the function of collections and exhibits in an Omeka site.  Run time 3:04.

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This video describes some of the site-level components of Omeka, such as featured items and advanced search. Run time 2:24.

Unable to display content. Adobe Flash is required.

Working with Omeka


  • Control the look and feel of your Omeka site: the colour, the font, and the layout
  • There are four themes included with the free basic plan for hosted sites
  • Themes can be customized to some extent with banner images, logos and preset colours and fonts
  • There are more than a dozen themes for self-hosted sites
  • If you have web design skills you can design your own theme for self-hosted sites


You can add users in four categories:

  1. Super: can do everything.
  2. Admin: can do everything with items and exhibits etc., but can't access Settings.
  3. Contributor: can add items and create exhibits, but can't publish them, and can't modify items added by other Contributors.
  4. Researcher: can only see items, including private items that aren't published to the web. Note that items you add to Omeka are private by default; you must deliberately check a checkbox in order to publish an item to the web. This is useful when you want to include an item in your archive but don't want to publish it to the web, as for instance when the copyright status of an item is unclear.  Users who are logged in can see both private and public items in Omeka, so the "researcher" role allows you to let selected individuals see but not edit your items.



If you have additional questions about Omeka at the University of Calgary, please feel free to contact Kathryn Ruddock or Christie Hurrell.

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