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Re-Making the Museum Blog, #MCN2013

2013 November 25
by Sheila

On Saturday, November 23, Joan Troyano and I presented on ways that museums can re-make their blogs into new forms of digital publications using WordPress and the PressForward plugin.

Museum publications session team

Museum publications MCN2013 session team photo with DHUnicorn

We had a great panel on digital publications, chaired by Vicki Portway, Head of Web and New Media at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Interestingly, we presented with two groups representing museums/cultural institutions who are building tools for scholars. And we are scholars who help build tools for ourselves that are also relevant to the GLAM community. Susan Edwards and Will Lani of the J. Paul Getty Trust who presented on their efforts building a collaborative digital art history platform, Scholars’Workspace. Amy Parkolap, discussed challenges of creating new forms of exhibition catalogs that is transforming the Art Institute of Chicago through their OSCI program.

Common thread through the first two presentations: scholars are particular and need digital publications to count/be recognized as scholarship. Their scholars also don’t want process docs & forums to be included in those “publications”. Also, we learned that no one has quite figured out a completely digital editorial workflow that captures comments, changes, and versions all in one place. Editing and revising happens in word or Google docs, then is moved into the digital platform for publication. From what I observed, even as this work is digitally-enabled, the final products are still traditional. Learn more about the Scholars’ Workspace on the Getty blog, and the Getty-funded OSCI toolkit, created by the Indianapolis Museum of Art on the OSCI site.

Here are our slides. The session was webcast, so video will soon be available on the MCN site.

Preview of Histories of the National Mall, #MCN2013

2013 November 22
by Sheila

Today at the Museum Computer Network annual meeting, I presented a preview of RRCHNM’s forthcoming Histories of the National Mall site built with a beautiful responsive design that will display well on any sized screen–particularly on mobile phones. I talked a little about our planning process for the site and the content, and then took the audience on a tour of the site and the content. I finished by posing some questions about the challenges I think we will face as the team moves forward.

This is our wonderful hard-working, Histories of the National Mall, team:

  • Co- Directors: Sharon M. Leon and Sheila A. Brennan
  • Project Manager: Lee Ann Ghajar
  • Software Developer: Jim Safley
  • Web Design: Kim Nguyen
  • Project Associates: Megan Brett, Lindsey Bestebruertje, James Halabuk

For this presentation, I took reveal.js for a test drive. I really liked it building with it, see what you think. And, please leave me comments if you have any questions about the project.

8 Years After Katrina and Rita

2013 August 29
by Sheila

Official USCG photograph

I was privileged to be asked to participate in a session organized by Leigh White, Hurricane Katrina: Disaster Recovery and Documentation in Archival Collections, at Society of American Archivists’ Annual Meeting, August 15, 2013 in New Orleans, LA.

I spoke about the work that we did at RRCHNM together with Michael Mizell-Nelson and the University of New Orleans from 2005-2008 to build the Hurricane Digital Memory Bank. If you haven’t had a chance on this 8th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina to reflect on those events, please take some time to browse through the collections and through user-contributed stories and images.

One of the highest compliments the project received at the conference came from an archivist who recently relocated to New Orleans who researched Katrina’s and Rita’s impact on the area in HDMB before she arrived in LA. She mentioned that without HDMB she would not have had any sense of the extent of the damage–structural, institutional, emotional– across the region without the Hurricane Archive. We hope this will prove useful for others as time passes.

Below are the slides from my talk:

Intro to DH for Historians

2013 August 21
by Sheila

I was asked to give an introduction to the digital humanities to a group of visiting scholars working at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. My slides from yesterday’s talk are available below:

Back-to-School Edition, Use Omeka in Your Class, posted on Omeka blog

2013 August 20
by Sheila

It’s that time of year when educators and instructors are planning like mad for the coming semester or quarter, so we are highlighting some resources to help you get started using Omeka in your class.

You might be asking, well, how have others incorporated Omeka into assignments or final student projects? What were the learning objectives and expected outcomes? We know of many instructors using Omeka, these are a few pieces they wrote describing processes involved in launching student-driven digital projects with Omeka:

To see some of the possible uses for Omeka, see, “How Might You Use Omeka” and the growing list of Sites Using Omeka.

Running Omeka on a Server or

Now that you know how some people have used Omeka in their classes, consider your technical abilities and capabilities. Do you have access to a Linux server? Would you need hosting? How much support can you offer students? Do you wish to only use Omeka as a web service?

We recommend folks start in the Getting Started section of the Documentation. You will find detailed information about technical requirements and hosting suggestions.

If you are not interested in setting up a server or in finding outside hosts, you can try the service. See, for more information about signing up for an account and the different plans available (for free and for purchase). Check out this spreadsheet that details the differences in functionality, storage space, plugins, themes:

Consider contacting your library liaison, department chair, or IT services representative about purchasing an Platinum plan so that everyone at your school has access to Omeka sites and to all of the plugins and themes available on

Building a Site

You have an Omeka site, now, how do you and your students begin to plan and to add content?

General Caution

Building digital projects always takes longer than you think. Be sure to plan enough time for snafus, and warn your students that they need to plan as well.

Take some time to work through the decision-making process on getting Omeka installed or using, before introducing it to students.

We have provided many resources to help users of all technical abilities to get started using Omeka for a class project. We ask that as you are instructing students to build sites together, or individually, that you encourage them to collaborate and problem solve together. Peers should serve as the “first ask” for technical questions before posting to the forums or sending an email.

We do our best to respond to questions on the forums and email, but if you or your students ask a question the night before a project is due, it is possible that you will not get a response before class.

Even with those few cautionary words, we hope that you will dive in and use Omeka this semester or next to help students to learn about the processes of knowledge creation, to work with a digital publishing platform, and to develop a public scholarly voice.

via Omeka Brennan

Four P’s of Digital Project Outreach

2013 August 1
by Sheila

The first version of this cheat sheet was prepared for a talk given at the NEH, ODH Project Directors’ meeting (September 2012). I revised it in its current form for the Another Week | Another Tool ODH Summer Institute, July 2013, and is available also as a Google Doc: .


  • is intentional;
  • is integral to a tools/project’s success. Outreach team must be equal stakeholders in the building process;
  • is not only about publicity, the job includes testing and making the tool accessible to targeted audiences;
  • is user advocacy.

Four components of a good outreach strategy:
Plan | People | Presence | Press


  1. Outreach is intentional, it requires a plan (most grant programs require you have one, too):
    Articulate primary audiences, secondary audiences
    Create user scenarios.
  2. Learn about those audiences: where do they go for information, how can you best reach them.
    How can you best teach them about the tool later?
    Think about online and analog ways to reach people.
  3. Plan to extend outreach duties well beyond the official launch of the prototype/tool/software: workshops, demos, support.


  1. Outreach must be someone’s job.
  2. Outreach folks must be equal stakeholders in the building process, and are identified as the project begins. This job is not over even after a grant ends…unfortunately.
  3. Outreach must be involved in testing, and in UX/UI advocating for intended users during development.
    Test like you know nothing about the project.


  1. Establish and maintain a stable, digital presence for the project immediately.
    • Name the Tool–do some research on alternative meanings for names (check Urban Dictionary).
    • Buy domains…try to scoop up as many as you can once you’re committed to a name.
    • Grab the twitter handle.
    • Design a logo and start using it.
    • Build a project website, and only launch the site when you have content and something to say. Pages must contain words and sentences! Do not expound about the PIs CV. Focus on what it is, what it does, what it can do, and who on TEAM is building, creating, testing.
    • Start a blog for regular project updates, process posts, celebrations
  2. Teach others how to use the tool with online Documentation. User guides help teach new users how this works (different formats WP pages, a Wiki, GitHub pages).
  3. Give users a place to ask questions and give feedback
    Appropriateness depends on users, scope of possible questions, level of technical knowledge required:
    Omeka devs’ (Google Group) | End User Forums (BBPress) | Contact form for Net | Anthologize End Users (Google Group) | Anthologize Devs (Google Group)
  4. Together with project managers and developers set goals and be ready to release/launch on those dates.
    Perhaps you want to debut at a big conference or another significant event. Hard deadlines are good.


  1. Before a release, prepare your publicity.
  2. Give press previews to new tool by finding a writer, podcaster who might speak to your intended audiences.
  3. Blog progress and launch news, tweet it, get others to retweet.
  4. Incorporate electronic, print, social media, in-person. You may have institutional public affairs officers who can help.
  5. Prepare analog stuff: Showcase your logo, your URL and let folks show their support for your project w/a sticker, bookmark, pen, mug.
    Bookmarks can be cheap (500, 4-color, 1-color on backside, under $100 w/shipping).


  • Answer emails, phone calls.
  • Check forums regularly.
  • Respond to questions.
  • Incorporate user feedback into the tool.
  • Present at conferences.
  • Give a workshop.
  • Encourage others to use it and teach others.
  • Leave a SWAG trail when you travel.

Selected dh+lib Review, Editor’s Choice Resource, August 6, 2013.

Selected by DHNow as an Editors’ Choice Resource, August 13, 2013

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