Object of History Template
One of the project’s major goals was to provide a way for small history museums to create their own versions of the Object of History using their collections. NMAH and CHNM staff first envisioned a packet of free materials that would include pre-made HTML files. Before it came time to create this packet, however, a different CHNM project rendered the idea of pre-made HTML files unnecessary. Omeka, launched in 2008, is a free, user-friendly content management system and web-publishing platform that makes it easy for museums and others to create and share their collections in online exhibitions. With pre-made themes and plug-ins, an exhibition can be customized without needing to be built from scratch. Omeka was launched just in time for the Object of History staff to create an Object of History-Omeka package instead of a static set of HTML pages. An institution looking to build their own version of the Object of History only needs to download Omeka and follow the instructions laid out in the downloadable PDF guide. At the time when they were proposing the Object of History, NMAH and CHNM staff could not have anticipated the advance in the digital tools that would be available to them, but they readjusted their plans as it became clear that combining with Omeka would provide the simplest way for small museums to expand their online educational programming.
Completed just on the cusp of the transition to content management systems, the Object of History sits at a very important moment in digital humanities. Building online archives and exhibits from scratch was beyond the capabilities of many small institutions, and for frequent creators, like CHNM, the process was beginning to feel inefficient in its repetitiveness. Omeka and other content management systems solved those problems, but they introduced new limitations on what a site could look like and how it could function. This raises the question: does the widespread adoption of content management systems cinch the boundaries of the imagination? The field of digital humanities still needs to reflect on the impact of the shift to content management systems.