Cultures and Community Project 2017: Victorian Engagement

Cultures and Community Project 2017: Victorian Engagement
March 30, 2017 Lauren Attana
Meredith speaking about Omeka at a recent Data Visualisation talk at the Digital Studio

Photo: Meredith speaking about Omeka at a recent Data Visualisation talk at the Digital Studio

The eRSA 2017 Cultures and Community Project comprises four staff from the participating National institutions. As the Culture and Community Engagement Officers at VicNode, Tyne Daile Sumner and Meredith McCullough have spent the past six months developing a range of communications and outreach projects in the Victorian Digital Humanities space.

Following this work – and as the Cultures and Community Project API nears its completion – the two will engage the Victorian community in a number of Software Carpentry presentations and workshops, alongside their other work that is focused on general promotion of the Digital Humanities in Victoria.

In addition to their day-to-day engagement with Victorian researchers, particularly those in need of Data Storage solutions, Tyne and Meredith have organized and participated in a number of other activities, aimed at developing closer networks and therefore better communication between data custodians around Victoria. All of this work incorporates some element of sharing information and knowledge about digital archiving and the various tools available to both Victorian and national researchers working in the Humanities.

Some of these activities have included:

  • An Omeka Symposium (held in mid-2016)
  • The establishment of a Melbourne-based Digital Collections Collective (DCC), the aim of which is to engage victorian researchers and archivists in ongoing discussion and collaboration on the topics of digitisation, digital preservation, data storage, data visualisation, and ‘data storytelling.’
  • Data Visualisation presentations to interested researchers, archivists, and librarians at the recently opened Digital Studio at the University of Melbourne
  • A lunchtime talk at the eResearch Australasia Conference 2016
  • Participation in a Historical Poetics conference and a one-day workshop with Professor Meredith Martin who is the director of the Princeton Prosody Archive
  • Participation in the Research Bazaar 2017, an international festival promoting digital literacy

And, an up and coming series of presentations at the School of Culture and Communication PhD intensive day at the University of Melbourne, the aim of which is to establish early connections with new research students, who will soon be at the center of emerging modern research

All of this activity has, in some way or another, utilised the digital archiving tool Omeka, which for Tyne and Meredith’s work has come to represent the ideal bridge between engaging Humanities research and effective, easy-to-develop online data visualisation.

Omeka is the latest addition to VicNode’s services and sits at the crossroads of Web Content Management, Collections Management, and Archival Digital Collections Systems. The term ‘Omeka’ is a Swahili word meaning ‘to display’ or ‘to lay out wares; to speak out; to spread out; to unpack.’

Omeka is a free, flexible, and open source web-publishing platform for the display of archives, library, museum, and scholarly collections and exhibits. It allows users to create complex narratives around collections, which are then shared with viewers in unique and interesting ways.

Omeka uses a simple and flexible templating system, designed with non-IT specialists in mind. This means that users can focus on content and interpretation rather than programming. Omeka can handle large archives of metadata and files (over 100,000 items), making it extensible and scalable with the only limitation being your own server.

The Omeka Symposium, held in September last year at The Virtual Experiences Laboratory (VXLab) at RMIT, comprised presentations from a wide array of speaks, all of whom had either used Omeka previously, were interested in using Omeka to archive and display their digital objects, or were simply Digitial Humanities enthusiasts eager to learn about new digital archiving tools.

Some of the symposium topics included:

  • Omeka as pedagogy; in particular, for teaching Classics
  • Data handling and using Omeka
  • The East Timor Archives
  • The Australian Gay and Lesbian Archives

Stemming from the success of this symposium and the growing interest in Omeka (for both HASS and STEM researchers), Tyne and Meredith are currently planning a mid-year Digital Humanities event, which will showcase an array of recent Omeka instances, along with new developments in the digital humanities field at Melbourne University and in Victoria. Stay tuned!

Tyne presenting a short talk on Omeka at a ResCom Digital Tools speed-dating

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