CHNM and Scholars’ Lab Partner on “Omeka + Neatline”

The Scholars’ Lab at the University of Virginia Library and the Center for History and New Media (CHNM) at George Mason University, are pleased to announce a collaborative “Omeka + Neatline” initiative, supported by $665,248 in funding from the Library of Congress.

The Omeka + Neatline project’s goal is to enable scholars, students, and library and museum professionals to create geospatial and temporal visualizations of archival collections using a Neatline toolset within CHNM’s popular, open source Omeka exhibition platform. Neatline, a “contribution to interpretive humanities scholarship in the visual vernacular,” is a project of the UVa Library Scholars’ Lab, originally bolstered by a Start-Up Grant from the Office of Digital Humanities at the National Endowment for the Humanities. Omeka is an award-winning web-publishing platform for the display of cultural heritage and scholarly collections and exhibits, funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and Samuel H. Kress Foundation.

This two-year initiative will allow CHNM and the Scholars’ Lab to expand and regularize a partnership that developed informally between the two centers over the course of the past year. Collaboration has already resulted in improvements to the core functionality of Omeka by CHNM and has led the Scholars’ Lab to produce a number of prototype plugins making Omeka a more attractive and viable option for scholarly partnerships with larger libraries and cultural heritage institutions. These include: improved data import (including EAD, a common archival standard); Solr-powered searching and browsing; and Fedora-based repository services. Further development will improve existing plugins, add preservation workflows, and refine the Neatline toolset for integration and sophisticated editing and scholarly annotation of historical maps, GIS layers, and timelines. Enhancements to Omeka’s core APIs, improved documentation, regular “point” releases, and a new Exhibit Builder will strengthen Omeka’s already large and robust user and developer communities.

Omeka + Neatline is one of six contract awards made by the Library of Congress in a program that aims both to improve the Library’s own content management and content delivery infrastructure and to contribute to collaborative knowledge sharing among broader communities concerned with the sustainability and accessibility of digital content. In July of 2010, the Library of Congress targeted approximately $3,000,000 toward Broad Agency Announcements covering three areas of research interest related to these goals. Technical proposals were openly solicited from expert, multi-disciplinary communities in both academic and commercial settings in three areas: Ingest for Digital Content, Data Modeling of Legislative Information, and Open Source Software for Digital Content Delivery.

In addition to guiding software development work at the Scholars’ Lab and CHNM, project directors Tom Scheinfeldt and Bethany Nowviskie will use the Omeka + Neatline project as an opportunity to document and disseminate a model for open source, developer-level collaborations among library labs and digital humanities centers.


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