Online Exhibits Just Got Easier and Now There’s No Reason Not to Make Them

Screenshot of my Omeka exhibit.

Screenshot of my Omeka exhibit.

This week for class we created an exhibit on Omeka based on the collection we uploaded last week.

You can choose from different themes, add labels, position the image (to an extent), and even make a gallery within a single page of the exhibit. It requires very little training and the photos do not even need to be particularly high resolution.

This last part differs from some other online exhibit sites, most notably Google Cultural Institute (GCI), which works best with images around 600 dpi. Of course, you can use smaller and lower quality images if that is all you have, but one of the nicest features of  GCI is that you can make a panel 1200 x 1200 and then zoom in to the minute details.

Regardless, both Omeka and GCI let institutions upload many items to a single site and then create products out of them. It is so easy to do that museums have no reason not to jazz up their digital presence with informative online exhibits.

As Sheila Brennan says in her article, “Getting to the Stuff: Digital Cultural Heritage Collections, Absence, and Memory,” “history museums in the US, generally do not share much online, an when they do share little of it is discoverable, open, or extractable.” But why is that? Especially when accessible and affordable sites like Omeka exist for their use.

Brennan continues,

If we want to connect more visitors to collections, open those up for greater use and interpretation, why not use the capacity of an online environment to share more objects and demonstrate the ways to answer historical questions using a variety of sources?

The advent of Omeka and Google Cultural Institute mean that institutions can digitize all of their holdings and then if they want, they can create an exhibit out of the ones they don’t display.

Tim Sherratt explains that,

It’s about taking cultural heritage collections and changing them. Changing what we can do with them. Changing how we see them. Changing how we think about them., even the ones they don’t intend to display.”

Thus, museums invite viewers to see a different side of the museum and they create these resources that don’t detract from their original holdings or exhibits, but supplement them in innovative ways. As I say in another post, these digital technologies won’t hurt museums, they’ll probably make them better.

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