Jargon and More

In large part, the readings for this week revolve around two subject matters: the unique specialty of Omeka and the importance of data collection for online based exhibits. The two themes work hand in hand because as more and more content moves online and museums, libraries, and other institutions of historical importance utilize the internet, there is a growing need to make sure material is searchable and uniformly cataloged. You do not want a situation where a person discovers on one site that material is on another but they cannot find the material because the metadata is not entered correctly.

Tom Scheinfeldt, a wordpress blog user, devotes his attention to present the importance of Omeka as a tool for historic online contents. He notes that Omeka offers a unique set of cost free, flexible, and easily accessible online presentation tools to a wide variety of users. Scheinfeldt acknowledges that there are competing products designed for the use of archives, libraries, or museums to produce some online-based content. In some cases older and dated systems and software is used to build collections. Most importantly, while there are many other content and collection builders, most programs are unable to translate the collection into an exhibit. More important, Omeka offers a relatively easy way to create, store, and maintain metadata, which is much more difficult in blogs. In a world where professionals think so often in their little niche world, Omeka provides a tool for collaboration that bring museums, libraries, archives, and historians together to present findings and material to a broader online audience.

This leads over to the other important issue. A collection is only as good as the metadata used to compile it. Without the important information of what it is, users will be unable to retrace the material or have no context for when the material was produced and what its significances are. There are many different data systems. When libraries first moved online with their collections to make searches possible, they developed a content record system. However, some found the system to limited and desired to include museums in the system, which resulted in the creation of MOAC. From there, many different styles for record and data collection emerged to make the process easier. But as the graphic in Mary Elings and Günter Waibel’s article shows, the structure, content, format, and exchange of data remains a complex and multifaceted enterprise that is not uniform among the major communities of libraries, museums, and archives.

One of the many ways to collect data, the one used in Omeka, is Dublin Core. Metadata is again essential because every item in a collection, either physical or digital needs information. Dublin Core provides a series of important items of information that can help even a non-specialists associate data with an item/image that will create uniform system of cataloging. The Dublin Core also offers the opportunity for the non-specialists to restrict data entry to a small range of material and the expert to enter an abundance of information.

Niels Eichhorn


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