Omeka Workshop Review

Last Saturday we hosted the first of four digital scholarship workshops here at the Studio.  This workshop covered Omeka, an open source collections management platforms designed to let scholars curate collections and create narrative displays for the public.  It’s a perfect tool for supporting a balance of rigorous scholarship with a public-friendly face.  We use Omeka here at Iowa for projects ranging from DIY History and History Corps to individual course assignments in undergraduate classrooms in a variety of departments.

Despite only having a week of registration, I was thrilled to have eighteen attendees! The class included faculty, staff, and both graduate and undergraduate students at all levels of technical experience.  We blasted through a lot of material in a little over three hours, from the basics of the site structure, adding items and exhibits, and administering the site; to more advanced concepts, such as creating custom item types, exporting between installations, and mapping with Neatline. Some attendees already had some basic knowledge of Omeka, and were generous in helping their fellow attendees who had questions.  The hands-on structure of the workshop, in which every attendee was tinkering in their own website, also gave people who were more comfortable with the technology the chance to work ahead and try features out for themselves.

This model of people going at their own pace but tuning in when they needed to and communicating with each other was made much easier by the TILE classroom.  Attendees were able to work in small groups where they could feel comfortable asking their neighbor a question, but everyone could still see what I was doing as I walked them through various parts of the site on the screens around the room.

I was glad to see that everyone’s enthusiasm carried over to lunch!  We adjourned to the Studio for sandwiches and chatting, and a lot of interesting conversations were going on about various research projects.  People had a chance to reflect on the basics that we had covered before lunch, and bounce around ideas for how Omeka might be used in classrooms.

For me, one of the most important parts of any technical workshop is explaining the overall structure and main concepts of a platform, not just the step-by-step motions of doing things with it.  This has often been a difficulty for me when researching new tools, that often the documentation assumes you already understand what you might want to do with it.  We had great questions about the differences between different versions of Omeka and how to decide which is best for a specific purpose, and also about how much of how a site is used and set up depends on decisions specific to a project versus field standards.  It’s important to me for people to understand that there’s often not one right way to “do digital”, but that digital resources can be used differently to express what we really want to get at with our research.

Registration is still open for our upcoming workshops on text encoding, 3d modeling, and mapping, so come join us!

Making Blackness Digital

Beginning tomorrow, a series of events will take place on campus examining the black experience at The University of Iowa. Two sessions in the “Iowa and Invisible Man: Making Blackness Visible” project have an online component in the Iowa Digital Library.

  • Tuesday, Nov. 29, 7 p.m., Shambaugh Auditorium, UI Main Library: “Black Hawkeyes: Midcentury Memories of the University of Iowa.”What was it like to be a black individual on the UI campus in the 1950s? UI alumni will offer first-hand memories of that period. The panel will be moderated by Richard Breaux, assistant professor in Ethnic Studies at Colorado State University and author of Maintaining a Home for Girls: The Iowa Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs at the University of Iowa, 1919-1950 and To the Uplift and Protection of Young Womanhood: African American Women at Iowa Private Colleges and the University of Iowa, 1878-1928.

View the digital collection inspired by Breaux’s research:African American Women Students digital collection

  • Thursday, Dec. 1, 3 p.m., Iowa Memorial Union, Illinois Room (Room 348): “For My People: Elizabeth Catlett at Iowa and Beyond.”UI Museum of Art chief curator Kathleen Edwards will discuss the work of UI alumna Elizabeth Catlett (MFA ’40), including her sculpture Invisible Man: A Memorial to Ralph Ellison, 2003. Edwards visited with Catlett in Mexico in 2006. Subsequently, the UIMA purchased 26 of Catlett’s prints. After the lecture, the audience may view prints by Catlett in the UIMA@IMU Visual Classroom.

View digitized versions of Catlett’s work in the University of Iowa Museum of Art digital collection:Elizabeth Catlett in the University of Iowa Museum of Art digital collection

“It is such a happiness when good people get together—and they always do.”

Local readers are invited to Main Library this Friday to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility:

Sense and Sensibility title page

It has been two hundred years since a book was published in England “By a Lady,” entitled Sense and Sensibility. On October 30, 1811, Jane Austen’s first novel was published, creating a literary phenomenon that continues to this day. Join us in the Special Collections reading room on the third floor of the Main Library on Friday, October 28 from 4:00pm to 5:00pm, when we will celebrate this event with an informal gathering. Our copy of the first edition of Sense and Sensibility will be out for viewing, along with a few other Austen pieces. End your week with some good books and good company.

Those of you unable to make it here in person can enjoy a virtual discussion of Jane Austen fandom in this 2004 reading by Karen Joy Fowler from our Live From Prairie Lights archive:

Karen Joy Fowler reads selections from her novel The Jane Austen Book Club. She explains how she conceived the idea for the novel while at reading at an independent bookstore. Fowler recounts how she had seen a poster on the wall that had proclaimed “The Jane Austen Book Club”, and was excited to purchase the book with that title. When she realized that the poster was for an actual book club instead of a book, Fowler knew she had to pen a book with that title. During a question and answer session, Fowler explains the format of her book–the book club in her novel covers six of Jane Austen’s works over the course of six meetings. She goes on to discuss the tendencies of the characters in her book to relate specifically to characters in Austen’s works. Fowler, who is also a successful science fiction writer, feels that she has two separate careers in two completely distinct genres. She explains that she purposely keeps her two careers “separate” so that each fan base does not feel put off by her other works. Fowler goes on to recount her own experiences in a book club, and how these experiences informed her novel. She outlines her respect for Austen and Emily Dickinson, and her awe at their contemporary style of writing.,256

Hear Iowa City readings from the new U.S. Poet Laureate

Headshot of Philip Levine
Philip Levine, from the Iowa Alumni Review, vol. 46, Jan. 1993-Dec. 1993, The University of Iowa

Iowa Writers’ Workshop graduate Philip Levine (57MFA), “best known for his big-hearted, Whitmanesque poems about working-class Detroit” was named the new U.S. Poet Laureate today.

“I find him an extraordinary discovery because he introduced me to a whole new world I hadn’t connected to in poetry before,” James Billington, the librarian of Congress, told the New York Times on Monday. “He’s the laureate, if you like, of the industrial heartland. It’s a very, very American voice. I don’t know that in other countries you get poetry of that quality about the ordinary workingman.”

Please enjoy these Levine readings from the Virtual Writing University Archive:

—Nicole Saylor
Head, Digital Library Services