Tag Archives: Omeka

Getting Started with Digital History in the Classroom

Here is the information from my introductory level workshops at this year’s Getting Started in Digital History workshop at the AHA Annual Meeting. Since WordPress and PowerPoint don’t play well together, I have distilled the pretty slides with the ink blots into an annotated list of resources.

An Important Book

T. Mills Kelly, Teaching History in the Digital Age (University of Michigan Press, 2013).

Kelly considers how digital tools can helps us teach students how to think historically and takes the reader through progressively more sophisticated questions from website analysis through “Making Sense of a Million Sources” to presenting and making.

And Catherine Denial at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, has a great handout on website analysis.

Presenting and Making: Is There a Difference?

Lying about the Past, T. Mills Kelly, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia

Hannah Atlas: Becoming African and American, Julian Chambliss, Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida

Critical Making or Open Design

Matt Ratto, University of Toronto

Tools and How Some People Have Used Them

WordPress (plus…)

Michelle Moravec, Rosemont College, Rosemont, Pennsylvania


Jeffrey W. McClurken, University of Mary Washington, Fredericksburg, Virginia

W. Caleb McDaniel, Rice University, Houston, Texas

History Harvest, Open Access, Oral History

Jack Dougherty, Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut


An Omeka Plugin from Scholars Lab at the University of Virginia


Wheaton College Digital History Project

Kathryn Tomasek, Wheaton College, Norton, Massachusetts

TEI, History Engine, TAPASproject.org

Texas Slavery Project

Andrew J. Torget, University of North Texas, Denton, Texas

Visualizing Emancipation

Digital Scholarship Lab, University of Richmond, Richmond, Virginia

Pick Your Poison

Questions, Partners, Explorations

Collaborate with Librarians

Contingent Faculty Members, Host a Domain or Use Omeka.net/WordPress.com

Use this Process Checklist that Rebecca Frost Davis and I put together in 2011.

Embrace Imperfection

Fail Better

Have Fun!

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Filed under digital history, digital tools, teaching

When Software Fails; or, Don’t Believe Everything the Wizards Tell You

Today’s sheepish lesson learned entails a return to discussion of my Omeka installation process.  It’s sheepish because I persist in believing that I can use the relatively stable set of tools that have been developed by others to help ordinary historians do our work online.  And because computing machines still remain more of a black box to me that I might wish.  And finally, I read the former as a strength and the latter as a weakness.  I should probably give myself a break.  But back to the lesson.

Omeka installation requires the use of FTP (file transfer protocol), one of the older processes that I remember from the early 1990s.  I used to like watching the little dog animation that ran when you used Fetch…. But the point is that in order to show your work on the web if you are using a more recent version of Omeka than the one-click install that my hosting service offers, you need to be able to upload the application via FTP.  I’ve done it before, and I should certainly be able to do it again.

There are plenty of FTP client applications now (however much I might miss the little Fetch dog), and I learned from the pros at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media that FileZilla is a good one.  The hosting service I use also offers WebFTP through an application called AjaXplorer.  In fairness, I should note that the hosting service cautions users against relying on WebFTP as one’s only tool for this purpose.

In fairness because the webhost recently installed a new version of AjaXplorer that fails to see some users’ repositories.  Like mine.  When I ran into this problem a couple of weeks ago, I emailed the webhost’s support and learned I was not alone.  Which was a relief.  Sort of.

I had used FileZilla before, so I didn’t panic.  And since I wanted to proceed cautiously and limit the possibility of frustrating mistakes, I opened up documentation for FileZilla and FTP as well as  for Omeka.  Which was a big mistake.

Because FileZilla recommended running their very helpful Configuration Wizard to assure that the application would work smoothly on my machine.  That seemed like a reasonable recommendation, so I followed it.  And that’s where I got massively, frustratingly stuck and remained so for over a week.

Because the Configuration Wizard’s test repeatedly found a problem with an abrupt loss of the test connection and recommended that I adjust settings and try again.  And again.  And still again.  Ad infinitum.

And here was my real mistake.  I believed the Wizard.

So I spent hours trying various fixes.  Turning off my firewall.  Turing it back on, holding my cursor in the right place on the screen and quickly clicking “Allow” to give the application access to my machine.  Reading up on FTP and trying to figure out what the problem could possibly be.  Getting frustrated and going off to do something else.

Day after day, for many days.

I thought the problem might be the new Mac OS, so I read a lot of Apple Support discussions about the incompatibility of Mavericks (please) with various software.  Everything I saw on the forums seemed to indicate that FileZilla was working for others just fine.

So yesterday, when I didn’t really have time to carry out the full installation anyway, I decided that I would just try to connect to the remote server using FileZilla.  If it was working for other people, I finally reasoned, maybe it would work for me.

Maybe the Wizard was wrong.

I launched FileZilla, typed in the server name, my user name, and my password.  And I connected just fine.  No unexplained lost connection.  No problem at all.

The Wizard was wrong.

So my lesson, learned through massive frustration over the past two weeks, is this:

Do not believe everything the Wizards tell you.  Sometimes, they are wrong.






Filed under Applications, devices

Omeka Follow-Up

This post is inspired in part by Ryan Cordell’s ProfHacker post on developing strategies for writing productivity. He describes his current writing group’s use of Wendy Belcher‘s Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks and some of the principles he is putting into practice. Those are tools I used a few years ago, and I’m watching with interest to learn how well they work for Ryan and his colleagues.

Another inspiration for this post lies in growing interest in developing principles for evaluating digital scholarship, an interest that I see expressed not only in the American Historical Association’s ad hoc Committee on the Professional Evaluation of Digital Publications by Historians, on which I have the privilege of serving, but many other places as well. Most notable today is the Google doc that Adeline Koh has started for establishing “ideal language for assessing promotion and tenure for digital scholarship.”

And a final inspiration comes from a wish to document the kinds of work I am doing during my sabbatical and the time it takes to do them. This latter comes in part from some things I have noticed as a result of the kinds of work Ryan describes in the ProfHacker piece. For me, narrating the process of research and writing as I engage in them helps me with that engagement. A trick I developed when I was using Wendy Becker’s very helpful tools back in 2011 was just writing about the writing process as a warm-up to my daily fifteen minutes.

Now, I also have the incentive of wanting to think through and be able to express for my colleagues in many contexts the joys and challenges that come with having chosen digital platforms as the best media for publication of the research and teaching that I have been doing for the past ten years. When I began to explore digital scholarship, I did not realize how much I would need to learn myself about the technologies that underlie pretty presentation on the inter webs. And some of my colleagues–including my co-author–have attempted to dissuade me from thinking that I need to learn XPath, XSLT, and a host of other languages that my humanist brain is less than ideally suited to understand.

But I am even more convinced now than I was in 2011 when I started to learn a little bit about WordPress that being able to do the sorts of things I want to do with and for digital scholarship entails learning how to do some technical things for myself rather than relying on technical “experts” to do them for me. (I find myself wanting to do an embarrassing girl power dance here….)

So finally, today’s sabbatical narrative is this:

After I completed the Dreamhost one-click installation of Omeka to this domain yesterday, I recalled something I had already learned when I performed the same task for encodinghfrs.org last year. That one-click installation is for Omeka 1.5.3, and Omeka 2.0+ has been operating for some time now.

As has been the case ever since I started teaching myself applications in the mid-1980s (that was WordPerfect, in case anyone is keeping score), becoming comfortable with each new tool is an iterative process. Bumbling through setting up a sub-domain and a db.ini file and the various other set-up details does get easier over time, even though I do forget how to use each tool in between moments when I take the time to engage with them.

I became reacquainted with this process when I started to learn TEI. Although I say this as though it is a joke, it really did take three times sitting through the Introduction to TEI with Julia Flanders and Syd Bauman before I began to feel comfortable enough with XML/TEI to work with the files. And taking the full week to do that at DHSI with my research assistant Lauren Pfendner helped a lot.

So having taken roughly a week to set up my new Omeka repository and still having ahead of me installing the update feels more like success than it does a setback to me. I have learned that this tortoise-like progress is progress nevertheless. The installation of the update will go more quickly, and the iterativity of my learning is simply a fact of the life of the digital humanist, or at least of the kind of digital humanist I choose to be.

Over the next couple of days, I will be installing the Omeka upgrade, converting TIFs to JPGs, uploading them, and then turning to an old version of a TEI transcription that I will need to update for compatibility with the contextual files that I have been working on with a different research assistant–John Burnett–over the past couple of years.

Doing the work of a digital humanities project happens with almost unbelievable slowness when your day job is teaching at a residential liberal arts college. I document that work here in the hope that it will serve to assist my colleagues who are transforming our understanding of scholarship for our ever more digital age.


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Filed under digital history, digital humanities, productivity

Ah, Omeka

For the past couple of days, I’ve been struggling to install Omeka on this website. It’s part of one of my larger projects for this sabbatical, a considerably expanded version of the poster that I presented at DH2010 with my colleague Wheaton College Archivist and Special Collections Curator Zeph Stickney. For the poster, we mapped a journey that Eliza Baylies Wheaton and her husband Laban Morey Wheaton made to London in the spring and summer of 1862.

For some time, I have been interested in developing the presentation into either a print publication or a website or both. Self-publication is the best option currently available to me for the digital version of the project.  And the Omeka installation to create a repository to hold the images that are associated with the project is a first step in building the website.

So watch this spot for updates on the progress of the build and–eventually–the website itself. I may even hold a virtual launch party once it’s ready. Who knows?

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Filed under digital tools