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Guide to Building Omeka Exhibits

A guide to building Exhibits in UT's Omeka site, specifically Architectural Collections.

Building Exhibits

Instructions for Building an Omeka Exhibit

Step One

First, a new exhibit must be added to Omeka.  Click on the "Exhibits" button on the menu on the left of the screen.  Once on the exhibits page in Omeka, click the green "Add an Exhibit" button.  This will take you to the page to begin configuring your exhibit. 

Step Two

Once on this metadata page for the exhibit, the most important information to complete are the Title (the title for the whole exhibit), the Slug (some kind of identifier for the exhibit which appears in the URL), the Credits (public acknowledgements), the Description (a description for the exhibit), and the Tags (keywords that allow users to look for similar exhibits).  

Also important is the Theme you choose for your exhibit.  This may vary depending on what you want, whether you want an exhibit that displays metadata, or one that focuses on image display.  The Theme can be changed at any point.  Omeka has examples of what the various themes look like, so turn to that to get an idea of the visuals of each theme.  

Omeka also gives you the option of using a "Summary Page" and providing a "Cover Image" for the exhibit.  The Summary Page is a page that only displays a text description of the exhibit, and serves as the first page users see when entering the exhibit, and often users navigate to other parts of the exhibit from there.  The design of the Summary Page may change depending on the theme of the exhibit.  The Cover Image is an image that serves as the representative thumbnail image for the exhibit, and sometimes it is displayed on the Summary Page.  Neither a Summary Page or a Cover Image are required aspects of an Omeka exhibit, but both can be useful.  

On the right of the page, note the check boxes designating that an exhibit is "Public" and/or "Featured."  I don't recommend checking either box until your exhibit is finished and ready for public consumption, and then I would check both.  Checking the Public box, as you'd guess, means that the exhibit is available publicly.  Checking the Featured box means that exhibit will rotate in and out of the "Featured Exhibit" display on the site's homepage.  Also, don't forget the big green "Save Changes" button.  There's nothing worse than losing what work you have done so far, so be sure to regularly save everything! 

Finally, at the bottom of this page, you can click the green "Add Page" button to add a page to the exhibit.  Pages are the primary means of dividing content on Omeka, and clicking on the button for the page is how you navigate to the various pages you have created in order to edit. 

When you are ready to begin building pages, just click "Add Page," and you can get started! 

Step Three

So when the Page first appears on your screen, the first thing to do is fill out "Page Title" (what will appear at the top of the page and in the menu for the exhibit) and "Page Slug" (what will appear as the back part of the page URL).  From there, it's time to start putting together the content of your Page.

Pages use "blocks" to divide content.  To the left, you can see a view of what a completed page looks like with all of its blocks.  There are several types of blocks you can choose from depending on your content.  Scroll down the Page after filling out Page Title and Page Slug, and you will see a section entitled "Content," under which all the content of the page will appear, and below that "New Block."  The different types of block are: "File with Text" (where you can choose one or more files to go alongside text in your exhibit), "Gallery" (to display a lot of images all together in thumbnail form), "Text" (text only, no file to go with it), and "File" (only a file, no text).  The type of block you want depends on the content and on the appearance you want.  I have found that having variety in your exhibit looks best (sometimes I include the images alongside text, and other times, with particularly good images, I have the file stand alone). 

Once you have selected your block type (you must click on your choice), click the bright green "Add New Content Block" button, and the block will appear at the top of your page.  And be sure to click "Save Changes."

Step Four

So, now you've got that glaringly empty Content Block (aka, "Block 1") staring you in the face.  The big things to pay attention to will be applicable regardless of what kind of content block you're working with.  

The "Add Item" button allows you to add an item (along with a caption) to appear in that content block.  Next is "Text," which is where you write all your text.  There are options in terms of bolding, italics, and underlining, and typically the best size for text is "Paragraph," though if you want some text to appear larger, one of the Headings sizes may be more appropriate.  In a menu below the text box (you have to click on the tiny arrow to the right of "Layout Options" to make this menu pop up) you have options for the positioning of the file (if it is "File with Text," then you only have choices of Left or Right, if it is "File Only" then you have options of Left, Right, and Center), the size of the file (generally "Fullsize" is the best choice, but the others are "Thumbnail" and "Square Thumbnail"), and the location of the Caption of the File ("Center" usually, but occasionally Right or Left is appropriate).  

Be sure to save as you go along! 

Step Five

When you click on the large "Add Item" button within a block, it pulls up a menu of items in the Omeka library.  You can search through the images using the title, or navigate through by clicking the arrows to go from page to page until you find the item you want.  Once you have found the desired item, click on it, and a button saying "Select Item" will appear to the right.  Click it, and now your item has been selected to be added to the Content Block.

Step Six

After you've selected the item to add, the next screen that will pop up is to add a caption to your item.  Simply click in the text box and type what you want the caption to be.  When done, click the green "Apply" button at the bottom right corner of the menu.  

Step Seven

Once you have added everything to your block, you can add a new one, and you start this process all over again.  Some Pages have only one or two Blocks, others have 15 or more.  It simply depends on the content of the exhibit. 

You also are able to shift around the Blocks and reorder them: all you have to do is click on the Block you want to move and drag it up or down to where you want it to be.  Click "Save Changes" afterward and the numbering will correct itself.  

This is what the admin view looks like when you are done building your Blocks on a Page.

Step Eight

This is what the final product of a Page made up of Blocks looks like.  You can compare this with the admin view on the previous slide and see how it all matches up.  It seems a little helter-skelter on the admin view, but when you look at the preview of the public page, you see that it comes together in a nice presentation.

Conclusion

Ultimately, you just have to play around with Omeka and you'll get the hang of using it for your digital exhibits.  It's a relatively easy tool, but can seem overwhelming when you first start using it.  I know I was overwhelmed at first and there was no guide I could turn to that walked me through building exhibits and importing items step-by-step, so I wanted to try to put all I have learned about Omeka through trial and error into a LibGuide.  Hopefully it has been helpful.  Now happy exhibit-building! 

Building Exhibits

Once items are imported, it is fairly simple to build an exhibit.  Below are instructions for using Omeka's Exhibit Builder 3.0 plugin, as well as links to some other resources and guides for building exhibits in Omeka.  The Exhibit Builder plugin uses "pages" to divide content, and within pages content can be put into "blocks."  Exhibits are also customizable by theme.  Some themes are more metadata-heavy, while others are image-focused, so select your theme based on your needs for a particular exhibit.  And crucially, don't forget to click "Save Changes" regularly to save your work.

Using Blocks to Build Pages

In Omeka, "blocks" are the best way to divide content on a single page.  Users select one of four types of blocks for their content: "File with Text" (an image alongside text), "'Gallery" (a gallery of images, with or without captions), "Text" (plain text, no images), or "File" (only a file, whether it be an image or audio clip).  Below is an image of the admin view of a page with a number of blocks within it.  

Omeka Exhibit Builder User Manual

The Omeka Classic User Manual includes a section on using the Exhibit Builder plugin.  This is another good resource to take advantage of if you're building an Omeka exhibit for the first time. 

Instruction Video for Omeka Exhibit Builder

Omeka produced a short video, "Omeka Classic: Exhibit Builder 3.0 Plugin," that includes a walkthrough of creating an Omeka exhibit.  

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