Creating online library exhibits - How do they do that?

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Example screenshot of the Omeka site featuring Denis Diderot

Special Collection’s most recent exhibition in Linderman Library, Daring Knowledge: Diderot’s Encyclopédie, is also available in its entirety online. A recent upgrade to the digital publishing tool Omeka has enabled every Special Collections exhibit put on display from 2003 to the present to also be available online at Omeka, which is a Swahili word meaning "to display or lay out wares; to speak out; to spread out; to unpack", is a web-publishing platform created by the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University. It has been specifically designed for use by cultural heritage institutions such as libraries, museums, and archives. This cultural heritage focus facilitates the uploading, description, and organization of our exhibitions in a format resembling their original design.

Omeka is an especially useful tool for Special Collections because of its extensibility. This quality, encouraged by Omeka’s free and open source nature, enables developers to add new and innovative features that build on the software’s basic functionality in the form of plugins. Lehigh’s installation of Omeka currently has eight such plugins installed. Our most commonly used plugin has been “Exhibit Builder,” with which we create exhibit sections that reflect our display cases, present digital images of the items captured prior to going on display, and provide description using the corresponding exhibit labels. This plugin is flexible enough to control the layout of individual images and text and is capable of creating unique and engaging online exhibit displays.

We have also installed the Scripto plugin, which enables the crowdsourced transcription of textual items. This tool was used by students during the LTS Transcribathon 5X10 and has since been used to collaboratively transcribe a letter written by Isaac Newton, in which he discusses the nature of miracles. Special Collections is also excited to be exploring the Neatline plugin, which enables the creation of complex exhibits using maps, timelines, and image annotation. While we do not currently have any public exhibits utilizing this plugin, we are actively searching for appropriate projects.

If you are interested in creating your own online collections or exhibitions, Lehigh’s installation of Omeka is open for scholarly use and a free hosted solution is available at