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New Roots Oral History IT Development

Omeka vs WordPress vs



January 2015

Article author: Jessica English, BDA

IT development for the New Roots Oral History project has begun! As part of the process we are reviewing our options for collection management and web publishing software. We had planned to use Omeka, but after compiling data we gathered from our stakeholders (global educators and scholars, Latino communities, museums and the media), we thought we should revisit that choice to be sure it would meet our diverse users’ needs.

The main objective of the New Roots Project is to provide greater access to the oral history collection by developing:

  1. bilingual data, metadata, website navigation.
  2. secure ONYEN login (LDAP authentication) so users can upload content.
  3. resource synchronization between CONTENTdm and the enhanced collection.

The current online collection is managed through Southern Oral History Program’s huge CONTENTdm database. For the enhanced New Roots project, we need something more nimble, so IT developers investigated Omeka and WordPress.

The most notable differences between the two are:

  • WordPress, although generally more widely used and has many developers, started as blogging software and does not clearly upload and organize objects (images, PDFs, audio files, etc.).
  • Omeka, which was developed specifically for libraries, museums and archives, employs organization and metadata standards, but it has a small community of developers, and is not regularly updated.

The IT development team explains that although WordPress already has the functionality that we are trying to employ with New Roots (bilingual sites and password protection), the New Roots IT team would have to develop a custom, ground-up information architecture to organize the collection content, and also devise a system of collecting and organizing metadata. However, while Omeka already has the “out-of-the-box” basic architecture to organize collection information and files using Dublin Core metadata standards, the IT team would have to start from scratch to innovate features that WordPress has already developed.

That is to say, WordPress would require IT development on the base level, while Omeka would require IT development on the plug-in level.


Since New Roots also seeks to provide other libraries, museums and archives with versatile, free tools for improving access to digital cultural heritage, we have decided (again) to use Omeka for New Roots. Improving Omeka—a free and open-source library, archive and museum standard web development/content management system—by developing new plug-ins that expand its capabilities, is worth the headaches we may run into when Omeka version 3.0 is released. We hope this document may be helpful for others creating digital humanities projects.

Library Information Technology staff Emily Brassell, Dean Farrell, Andy Jackson, and Tim Shearer compiled the following useful technical comparison chart of Omeka and WordPress for New Roots.