Up and Running with Omeka.net

omeka logoYesterday I had fun teaching a beginning Omeka workshop at THATCamp Feminisms West, a really great event at Scripps College. (It deserves a post of its own, but that will have to wait until I have a little more energy. Alex Juhasz has a nice post about it.)

Omeka’s documentation is actually very good, but experience has taught me that students really appreciate handouts. So here’s a digital version of my handout for a beginning Omeka workshop.

I know a lot of people teach these workshops, so feel free to use or modify this material (PDF version, Word version) if it’s useful for you. And here’s a handout that offers a quick Omeka vocabulary lesson and some guidance on whether Omeka’s the right tool for your project.

I also have a post and handout on the next step with Omeka, creating an exhibit.

As an aside, I make these tutorials with Blue Mango’s ScreenSteps software, which I highly recommend.

[Edit: Thanks to Jon Ippolito, who tipped me off to this interactive screencast about building an Omeka exhibition.]

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Utopianism and its detractors

Alice in Wonderland reflected in a CD
"Digital Reflections," by seriykotik1970

This year, the American Historical Association’s annual meeting included a THATCamp, which I was happy to attend. Andrew Hartman, a professor at Illinois State University, published an interesting response, which I wanted to take a moment to address.

Hartman enjoyed himself but wondered if the scholars attending THATCamp evinced an unwarranted utopianism about the prospects of technology to transform the practice of history. It’s a good question, and an understandable reaction, but I don’t think it’s altogether accurate. First, I think that what Hartman understood as utopianism may in fact have been an attempt by the participants to make newcomers like Hartman feel welcome. If there’s a utopianism present at THATCamp, I think it’s more about the possibilities of new forms of interacting with each other, not the technology itself.

(As an aside, I think that for women this may hit a particular nerve. Digital humanities’ vaunted niceness is an aspect of the field I love, but for women in particular being “nice” is often read as an admission of intellectual inferiority. Some people can easily afford to be nice; for others, the cost is higher.)

In fact, as I’ve written before, technological utopianism bothers me a great deal for very personal reasons, and it’s a stance digital humanists have been quite active in countering.

More substantively, I’d like to respond to another of Hartman’s points: that while digital history is “an important new tool … it does not change the way we conceptualize the past.” I’d like to argue that it does, and in ways that directly counter the characterization of digital history as utopian. In fact, much of it has an activist project that, like Hartman, draws on Marxist theory.

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Why I went (back) to the AHA

Last week I attended the American Historical Association’s annual meeting in Chicago. Although I’ve always thought of myself as a historian, I hadn’t been to an AHA meeting since my first year of grad school in 2004. In part, I hadn’t been going because I’m affiliated with so many disciplines that it’s difficult to keep up with all the meetings. But I also hadn’t been going because I wasn’t sure what the AHA would do for me. I won’t be interviewing there, since I’m not applying for teaching jobs, and playing the big-conference game (pretending not to notice the thousands of ways people behave disrespectfully to each other) has started to seem unnecessary to me.

I did go back, though, for a few reasons. First, I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve only recently come to understand how scholarly societies might be important sites of change within the academy. In my mind, AHA, MLA, SCMS, and their ilk were bureaucratic prestige-machines, awarding prizes and manning the gates for the old guard.

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