For class, we all had to create a small collection on Omeka. The site’s clear layout and simple uploading process made this project very easy. In fact, choosing a topic and a handful of representative images was the hardest part. Next week, we will build on this assignment and make an exhibit using these photos, but that is a post for another day. In picking a subject, I searched through some preliminary Library of Congress images and tried to find something that caught my eye.
Ultimately, I decided to stick with something close to my interests, and within my realm of experience: FDR and his time at his home in Hyde Park, NY. Having grown up near FDR’s home and having spent some time working there, I know this particular place and story well. However, I never spent much time looking through historic photos, so that part of this assignment was very fun. The fact that the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidential Library posted many digitized images on the Digital Public Library of America website made this project that much easier.
Even though it is online, I believe that this collection counts as an archive. Kate Theimer’s article suggests that archives, even digital ones, should adhere to the respect des fonds organizational method. Since all of these images come from the same provenance, this Omeka site should be considered a proper archive.
Now, I found this assignment particularly easy because I already had a fair amount of experience with Omeka. During my internship at Ford’s Theatre, I managed the Remembering Lincoln collection of digitized responses to the Lincoln assassination and initially it lived on Omeka before moving to its own permanent website. So while uploading and contextualizing images on this site was not a new skill for me, I now have a new understanding of these collections.Unlike what I created, the Remembering Lincoln collection consisted of items from many different places, so this would not be considered an archivist’s archive.
Instead, it is more along the vein of the September 11th or Shelley-Goodwin archive, which, as Trevor Owens explains, represent an effort “to bring collect or bring together related materials” even if it is not from a single provenance. As he says, it may not be the standard definition of an archive, but is “another tradition in which systematically collected materials have been called archives within cultural heritage organizations.”
Omeka’s collaborative nature makes it a great place to house collections. People can upload items, make an exhibit, or a showcase, like this one about exhibitions in New York City’s Gilded Age. So while this was a good introduction to the site, more than anything, I look forward to the next assignment when I can transform these twelve items into a well-designed and formatted exhibit.