Kress Funds New Omeka Features

I wanted to mention (slightly belatedly) some exciting developments related to the award-winning Omeka platform for museums, libraries, and other scholarly content providers. The Samuel H. Kress Foundation has generously given the Center for History and New Media two grants to add functionality within and beyond Omeka, functionality that I believe says a lot about where both Kress and CHNM think technology is headed in 2009.

First, as we’ve been saying for the last two years on the Digital Campus podcast, we believe expansion into mobile technology is critical for universities, libraries, and museums. There’s still too great a focus on the (desktop/laptop) web. We’re going to do a thorough survey of the use of cell phones and other mobile devices in art museums, out of which will come a series of recommendations about the best use of mobile technology. Moreover, we’re going to produce a suite of prototypes and proofs of concept based on these recommendations.

The Omeka team is already moving full-speed ahead to enable Omeka installations to take advantage of the latest modes of mobile use. By this spring, any Omeka-based site will look great on iPhones and many other smartphones through built-in Mobile Safari and Opera Mini stylesheets. In addition, we’ll release a barcode plug-in to allow institutions to add cell phone readable barcodes to labels in physical exhibits. When visitors to these exhibit aim their camera phones at these barcodes, they will be taken to an Omeka page with more information on the object. Also on the docket are iPhone and Android applications for the Omeka administrative interface (manage and build Omeka items and collections from your handheld; summer 2009), and geotagging, geolocation, and GPS-related services.

We are obviously strong believers in the idea of plug-in architectures. (Firefox has benefited greatly from this ecology of “add-ons,” as has the Zotero project.) A second Kress grant will enable Omeka to add some helpful plug-ins to the dozen plug-ins that are already available. New plug-ins include a CDWA Lite (Categories for the Description of Works of Art Lite) harvester and implementation; Cooliris 3D visualization; and image annotation for MyOmeka, the plug-in that lets visitors save individual items to a personal collection.

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