Omeka Classic

This tutorial will walk you through the process of setting up Omeka Classic on Reclaim Hosting, and the basics of using the Omeka Classic platform. This is only one of multiple ways to set up an Omeka Classic site.  I generally recommend students go through either a Reclaim Hosting account or Omeka.net, a website dedicated to hosting Omeka sites that has a “free” tier as well as paid tiers that include extra features.

This tutorial was last updated in the Fall 2018 of for my HIST 696 Clio Wired graduate class and lightly edited in Fall 2019 before posting. It assumes that you already have a Reclaim Hosting account and custom URL, and that you are using the main url (www.myname.com or similar) for a different purpose.

Installation: Reclaim Hosting

For those of you who would like to set up an Omeka site through your Reclaim Hosting account, you need to decide if you would like to have a special domain name for the Omeka site (e.g. www.myprojectname.com) – you can purchase one through Reclaim Hosting if you’d like to go this route. Alternatively, you can create a subdomain – this is the part of the domain name set off from your main domain by a period. E.g. historyarthistory.gmu.edu is a subdomain of gmu.edu.

image of cpanel on Reclaim Hosting

Log in to your Reclaim Hosting account and select cPanel to go to the screen that we used to install our WordPress blogs. You’ll notice the top set of icons is the “Applications” while the second set of icons is labeled “Domains” and has an icon labeled “Subdomains”. Click that to be taken to a screen that lets you create or modify a subdomain. I’ve created one called “omeka” so the entire subdomain URL is omeka.jessicaotis.com. Give yours a name and click “Create.”

image of the subdomain creation panel on Reclaim Hosting

Now if you navigate back to the cPanel screen, you can click the icon labeled “Omeka”. From the Installatron screen, click “install this application.” The next screen will ask you what URL you would like to connect to this Omeka site. DO NOT TELL IT YOUR MAIN SITE URL or you might accidentally make your WordPress blog inaccessible. Instead, search through the dropdown menu under the word “Domain” to find the subdomain you just created and select that. Make sure you save the automatically generated username and password, and give your Omeka site a title before telling it to finish installing.

image of Omeka Installatron page showing use of subdomain URL

If you get an error on logging into your Omeka site, telling you the Image Magic Directory is not set, navigate to your Omeka settings, scroll down to the Image Magic Directory field (which should be blank) and fill it in as “/usr/bin” (not including quotes).

image of "Image Magick" directory path being correctly filled in

Installation: Omeka.net

You can also go to www.omeka.net/signup and sign up for a “trial” account – this is not a time-limited trial, is a features-limited trial. It will take a little time for your registration to process. Once you have an account, you can log in and click the button that says “add a site.” You will then be prompted to choose a subdomain name for your site – that is, your website will be a subdomain of omeka.net (just as people who used wordpress.com for their wordpress site have sites that are subdomains of wordpress.com). Note: whatever name you choose cannot be recovered if you choose to delete the site after we’ve done this demo so don’t choose a subdomain name you might want to use for a real project in the future.

Getting started

Navigate to your Omeka website url or to http://omeka.jessicaotis.com/admin/ to use my website as your “sandbox” instead of creating your own. [NB: my sandbox is for current students only!]

image of the default Omeka Classic admin dashboard

To add items to your site, click on the “Item” in the menu to your left, then click the button that says “Add an Item.” There are now four items on the menu in the middle of your screen: “Dublin Core” “Item Type Metadata” “Files” and “Tags.”

image of add an item view on admin dashboard

“Files” is most straightforward – that’s where you’ll have the ability to navigate to a file on your desktop and select that file for upload. There is a 150 MB maximum file size, which allows for uploading video as well as images and smaller media types.

“Item Type Metadata” is where you will tell the site what kind of item this is – text, image, video, email, oral history, etc.

“Tags” function the same way tags do on WordPress – that is, it’s a piece of metadata you create that gives you an easy way to find a set of related items. I.e. I “tag” all my conference-related blog posts on my website with “conference” which makes it easy for a reader to them bring up all those blog posts together.

“Dublin Core” is the most intimidating for people who haven’t worked with metadata before, but as you look at the fields, it’s really not too bad. It’s asking you for things like the title of the work, who created it, when it was created, etc. Fill in as much as you can and don’t worry about the missing fields.

Last, but not least, don’t forget to check the box to make the item “public” or “featured” depending on what you want to do. Then click the button to finish adding the item.

You’ll notice that you weren’t able to add the item to a collection so let’s fix that. Go back to the menu on the left hand side of the page and click “Collection” then “Add a Collection.” Now all you have is Dublin Core metadata fields so fill out as many as you want then click “Add Collection.”

image of the add collection view on admin dashboard

Now go back to “Items” in the left hand menu, click the word “edit” displayed right under your item, then find the dropdown menu on the lefthand side below the word “Collection.” Select your collection, then click the “Save Changes” button.

You can add as many items as you want, group them into collections, tag them by shared features, etc. This is the core functionality of Omeka. However, just like WordPress, you can enhance this functionality with plug-ins – including the built-in Exhibit Builder and Simple Pages, and you’ll also hear a lot about Neatline http://neatline.org – and customize the appearance of the site via the top menu in the admin panel. This latter functionality includes being able to choose new themes and change the colors, etc. of the current theme. These similarities are not a coincidence – both of these are Content Management Systems (CMSs) that build on databases to provide users with flexible and customizable websites. WordPress was built with blogging as its primary purposes, while Omeka was built for the purpose of creating digital exhibits.

More resources

Omeka documentation:

Programming Historian tutorials:

Amanda Visconti tutorial:

Amanda French tutorial: