Digital Publishing in WordPress and Omeka

The Libraries’ Digital Humanities Working Group, with the support of Integrated Information Systems, just launched an informal digital publishing service offering two popular open source platforms: WordPress and Omeka. Both are relatively easy to learn, and allow users to develop digital publishing skills, such as the integration of texts, images, and multimedia, digital citation practices, and digital collaboration on course projects and informal research in an online environment.

WordPress and Omeka are both used for digital publishing, although they have different strengths. WordPress is widely known as a blogging platform. As the name implies, it is a text-centric application, even if themes and plugins greatly extend its appearance and functionality. Omeka excels at the presentation of small to medium-sized digital collections, which can then be curated to create digital exhibits integrating text and media. Dublin Core metadata connect items to their presentation in collections and exhibits, ensuring that context and provenance are not lost. Omeka was created by the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University.

Libraries faculty and staff and Rutgers graduate students and faculty in humanities and adjacent fields (meaning interdisciplinary research with a humanist twist) may request a site in WordPress, Omeka, or both. Potential users should contact their Digital Humanities library liaison to request a site. The liaison for Camden is Zara Wilkinson; for New Brunswick, Francesca Giannetti; and for Newark, Krista White (for Rutgers-Newark) and Bob Vietrogoski (for RBHS). In the first phase of this service, priority will be given to users whose projects integrate Libraries resources.

Many Rutgers librarians already use one or both of these applications. Laura Palumbo shares news on important resources in scientific disciplines at ChemInformer. Ryan Womack posts regular reflections on the data librarianship profession at RyanData. Kayo Denda created the blog of the Margery Somers Foster Center to provide an informal publication venue for student interns. Christie Lutz and other Special Collections colleagues write about rare and unique New Jerseyana at What Exit? And The Agenda newsletter itself is published in WordPress! The following three case studies demonstrate how these platforms can be used in support of library and scholarly work.

Pedagogy and Professionalization

A section of the exhibit on Gennett Records on the IJS Archives Fellowship site.

The Institute of Jazz Studies Archival Fellowship Program, instituted in 2010, supports the professional development of early career archivists and is dedicated to promoting diversity in the field of archives. The Institute of Jazz Studies (IJS) has its home in the John Cotton Dana Library at Rutgers–Newark. Krista White, the digital humanities librarian at the Dana Library, works beside IJS archivists Elizabeth Surles, Angela Lawrence, and Tad Hershorn; IJS Fellowship Program coordinator Ed Berger; and current associate director Adriana Cuervo in mentoring the IJS Archives Fellows through the process of archiving a single, small collection each year.

Krista White spearheads a digital project for the fellows each year and has used Omeka for the last two years. White chose Omeka because it is free and open source. Many archives and cultural institutions need to establish an online presence, but may not have the resources to produce expensive digital exhibits. By using Omeka as a learning tool, the fellows gained hands-on experience designing digital exhibits, evaluating copyright and intellectual property issues, and administrating metadata for public display in an online environment. Furthermore, exposure to open source tools provides a way for IJS Archives Fellows to build value-added expertise in creative digital solutions.

Project Outreach and Communication

A project update on the New Jersey Digital Newspaper Project blog.

In late July, Rutgers University Libraries learned that they, the New Jersey State Library, and the New Jersey State Archives had been awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities grant to digitize New Jersey newspapers as part of the National Digital Newspaper Program. The project team wanted to quickly establish a presence for the project and did so by starting the “New Jersey Digital Newspaper Project” blog using WordPress. The blog is administered by Isaiah Beard, John Brennan, and Caryn Radick and includes content provided by project team members.

The blog format lets the project team provide different types of information in one place including status updates, information about the partners, project staff, and advisory board, and provides a contact form for readers. Using a WordPress blog also allowed the project team to share password protected information with the Newspaper Project Advisory Board, who have helped guide the selection process.

First and foremost, the blog serves as a way to share news of the project. Currently, the partners are working to identify newspapers and learning the processes and procedures of the work involved in digitizing these newspapers for the Library of Congress Chronicling America Project. The blog has detailed various trips and meetings for getting these underway. As the newspapers are digitized, the blog will also let the project team share stories of interest from New Jersey history and provide further updates about progress.

Digital Editing and Reconstruction

Digital annotations to William Still’s letter, dated August 7, 1850.

Francesca Giannetti is creating a digital edition of the Peter Still Papers, a small manuscript collection held in Special Collections and University Archives. These manuscript letters have already been published in RUcore; a primary goal of the digital edition is to provide digital full text transcriptions. Giannetti is working with Aresty research assistants to transcribe and encode the letters using the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) framework of XML. The TEI allows keyword searchability across the letters, and also provides structured data that will allow future researchers to query the letters for names, places, and dates. This Omeka site will include lightly edited HTML transcriptions of the letters, while a link included in the relation field takes the reader to a more diplomatic style transcription with original spellings and line breaks preserved, and presented alongside expandable thumbnails of the page images. The Omeka site also features a annotation layer (right sidebar), which could serve as the basis of group digital annotation exercises in a digital or public history course. A next step for this project will involve finding faculty collaborators in history and American studies to bring these primary documents into the classroom for study and further research.

If you have questions about how to get started using WordPress or Omeka in your work, or have comments on any of the projects mentioned in these case studies, please write to the Digital Humanities Working Group.

-Francesca Giannetti, Caryn Radick, Krista White, Bob Vietrogoski, Zara Wilkinson, Ron Jantz, Fengzhi Fan, and Tibor Purger

Digial Humanities Working Group