Netscape RIP

So long Netscape. You were a good friend (for a while). Though official support for the first widely used web browser ends next week, Netscape’s hapless stewards at AOL have kindly left us a lasting(?) memorial. The Netscape Archive offers a brief history of the browser and a download page for discontinued releases of the software. But even the Archive’s creators acknowledge that you’re better off downloading Flock or Firefox.

Omeka Forums are Buzzing

It has been only three or four days since we released Omeka to the wild, and already we’re seeing some amazing interest. As of this posting, Omeka 0.9.0 has been downloaded more than 200 times, has been blogged by at least 50 authors, and for a brief time made the del.icio.us homepage “hotlist.” Most exciting to me, however, is the traffic to Omeka’s support forums, which shows that people are really using the software. Most of what we’re seeing are installation difficulties, especially where users are trying to install Omeka on third-party, commercial hosting services like Bluehost and Lunarpages.* The good news is that most of these problems can be worked out relatively easily, and I encourage anyone who is having trouble to take a look at the Getting Started and Troubleshooting forum threads and to post your questions there. Our crack team of developers will be happy to help out. Omeka is still in beta, and as an open source project, we hope everyone will feel comfortable joining the forums, becoming active in the community of users and developers, and just generally helping us make the software better.

* Note: if you don’t already have a hosting account and are thinking of signing up for one to try Omeka, we encourage you to consider Dreamhost, where Omeka has been most thoroughly tested and where we know it works seamlessly.

Omeka for All

Omeka As Steve Brier, Josh Brown, and Mike O’Malley pointed out in Episode 2 of History Conversations, CHNM’s late founder, Roy Rosenzweig firmly believed that it wasn’t enough for the historian interested in popular memory simply to be an analyst of popular historymaking. He or she also had to be an active practitioner of public history, making him or herself available to community, enthusiast, and other non-professional historians to help them in their efforts. True to Roy’s example and admonition, I aim to be both practitioner and analyst. But as the recent dearth of postings here on Found History attests, I have been doing a lot more practicing than analyzing lately.

Aside from general management stuff at CHNM, I have been spending most of my time and energy on Omeka. Just launched for general public download today, Omeka is CHNM’s latest software offering, a free and open-source platform for publishing collections and creating attractive, standards-based, interoperable online exhibits. It complements CHNM’s successful Zotero project, providing cultural content producers with innovative, open-source presentation software in the same way that Zotero has provided cultural content consumers with innovative, open-source research management tools.

First and foremost, Omeka is intended to reduce the costs and improve the quality and functionality of online exhibitions. There are lots of software tools in the world of libraries and museums for managing and searching collections. There are almost none to help designers, webmasters, curators, librarians, and scholars publish and present those collections in rich, narrative, interpretive online exhibits. Omeka aims to fill this gap. Free, easy to use, and fully customizable through feature plugins and design themes, Omeka can bring rich, elegant, interactive, and “Web 2.0” ready exhibits to even the smallest and least well-funded of institutions—institutions for which high priced web design vendors are completely out of reach.

In the early days of the web, personal web pages were poorly designed, difficult to update and maintain, flat, and generally ugly. That all changed relatively recently with the advent and widespread adoption of blogging packages and services like WordPress, MovableType, and Blogger. Now a well designed, dynamic, interactive, and standards compliant personal website is just a few clicks away for practically anyone. Why should it be any different for cultural exhibits?

With Omeka, it shouldn’t.

A Look Back at Braddock

Another episode of the History Conversations podcast has dropped. This time, the volunteer historians of the Look Back at Braddock project join me for a conversation about the challenges and opportunities posed by local history. Located near the center of Fairfax County, Virginia, Braddock District has changed rapidly in the 20th century, and members of the community have taken it upon themselves to document the changes. Working largely without funding, John Browne, Mary Lipsey, Gil Donahue, and their colleagues have produced a rich oral history collection, a successful book, and a new website. What does it take for a group of committed amateurs to launch and sustain a multi-year history project and what keeps them going? Find out in Episode 3 of History Conversations.