Omeka is a free online exhibit space for museums, archives, libraries, and other organizations. There are different versions for different organizations, who have different uses for the software. Omeka also has plugins, which makes customizing the online exhibit to your company’s needs as easy as a download. It is possible to create timelines and attach information to a map. Professional historians prefer Omeka because it enables them to provide correct metadata for their evidence of which traditional websites are not capable. Omeka combines a digital archive with an online museum exhibit.
Omeka seems like a public historian’s dream because they can cite their sources and share their information with the public. Public historians need websites like Omeka because there are citizens that cannot travel to the museum, do not have time to come to the museum, believe they are not welcome at the museum or think they would not enjoy their visit. Omeka can bring the exhibits of the museum to the public that is unwilling or unable to come to the museum and could convince others that they are welcome at the museum or pique their interest and bring others to the museum who may not otherwise visit the museum. Museums in China are now digitizing their exhibits because people are no longer visiting them because of the Corona Virus that is rapidly spreading through their country.
However, Omeka cannot replace traditional museum exhibits. The interactive elements on the Omeka website cannot compare to those found in a conventional museum. Also, museum patrons who view the online display lose the benefit of going to a museum with other people; they cannot strike up a conversation about the exhibit with a total stranger. Museum patrons utilizing the online exhibition also cannot discuss the content with docents and curators. This discussion could be geared more toward their interest, and they would leave the traditional museum exhibit with information personalized to their interests. This additional information would not be found in an online Omeka exhibit because there is not enough space to put every piece of information and evidence related to a topic in an online exhibition. There is also no substitute for seeing historical artifacts in person. While digitizing the content and historical objects of the museum, so those who do not have access to the museum or its records, is important, digitization, and online exhibits, at least for now, cannot replace the traditional physical museum exhibits.