Omeka & Archaeological Survey Project Websites: a good fit?

In an earlier post, I mentioned that the Omeka toolkit might have useful archaeological applications. The Omeka people themselves picked up on that thought, and there’s some interesting discussion on their blog on how smaller institutions (‘Beyond the Museum‘) might use Omeka.

“[…]we have always intended Omeka to be used not only for history museum exhibitions, but also by enthusiast collectors, scholars, libraries, and community groups in many fields—really anyone interested in collecting and displaying digital objects in rich visual and interpretive environments. One good example of Omeka’s flexibility is the community site, which was developed in concert with CHNM by local volunteers in the Braddock district of Fairfax County, VA.”

I’m reminded again how timely the emergence of this tool is by Bill Caraher’s discussion on the state of archaeological survey project websites:

“[…]survey project websites are a mixed bag[…] It seems to me that since many survey projects tend to be less stable institutional entities with life spans between a few years and a decade and make little investment in semipermanent, physical infrastructure (e.g. dig houses, site guards, fences, et c.), this often translates to instability on the web[…]The preceding links to survey projects show how most (but not all!) have broken links, pictures that fail to appear, or offer little more than static data (nice photos, some maps… in fact, much of this doesn’t count as data at all; of course, some surveys, like the the Sydney Cyprus Survey Project, have archived their data officially in places like the Arts and Humanities Data Service ).

If Omeka can live up to its promise, I could imagine a free-ish hosting service (much like how WordPress hosts this blog) with Omeka installed on it, and survey archaeologists uploading their information to it from wherever they are in the world. I haven’t yet played with Omeka, but if all the various mapping services out there can be mashed in there too, then we can perhaps mitigate the factors that Bill discusses.

4 thoughts on “Omeka & Archaeological Survey Project Websites: a good fit?

  1. This is a similar idea to a teaching tool used at Melbourne University that I saw demoed recently. They’ve used a proprietary software to create a ‘Virtual Print Room’ to teach students about designing and curating exhibitions.

    I think this sort of thing has a fantastic potential – currently they are using 2D prints but I’m sure something like this Omeka software could extend this into 3D. Whilst it is a great resource for outreach regarding our projects and own collections, the teaching potential is also fantastic, particularly for curatorial courses as it enables them to create their own virtual exhibition without wear and tear to the real artefacts.

  2. Reminds me of the Gov’t of Canada’s ‘virtual museum’ project to help small-scale organisations to curate their materials online. I think that program is now dead, so while there’s still some interesting stuff up, it’s all starting to decay (broken links, dead images, etc…).

    Is the tool at Melbourne called ‘Virtual Print Room’? I’ll check that out…

    Have you seen some of the user-created museums in Second Life?

  3. Hi Shawn — Thanks for blogging Omeka and picking up on my post. Just a quick comment to let you know that we are planning a hosted version of Omeka for late in 2008 or early in 2009. Our thinking is the same as yours: Just like WordPress offers hosted blogs at, we will offer hosted Omeka installations, probably at So you, for example, could have an Omeka collection and exhibition at We think this service will be vital for the smallest institutions and individuals to get up and running, and your example of survey archaeologists is right on.

    Tom Scheinfeldt
    Managing Director, Center for History & New Media
    PI, Omeka

  4. Fantastic! I look forward to exploring your service – I’ve got some survey materials that I’d love to get up and online.

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