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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Omeka: A User's Guide: Omeka Basics

An introductory guide to building online exhibits with, the web-based version of Omeka

Omeka Basics

Omeka is a simple web publishing system ideal for archives, historical societies, libraries, and museums for making searchable digital collections of primary source material. Considering this, the organization of and Omeka Classic makes the most sense when thinking about physical archives and cultural heritage institutions. Omeka is organized through Items, Collections, and Exhibits. Users interact with items by collections or exhibits on your site and learn more about the project through simple pages. 


If you have questions after reading this guide, please contact Dan Tracy (, head of Scholarly Communication and Publishing.

Subject Guide

Site Structure


Items are the most basic level of any Omeka site. When you upload an item, you are asked to provide metadata in Dublin Core. These items will remain in your personal library, only becoming accessible on the site if you link to a collection or place them in an exhibit.

Omeka can display items in multiple formats on the website, including still images, word processing documents, presentation slides, spreadsheets, audio files, and video files, with the full list of file types available in the documentation. But the critical factor to keep in mind is file size and storage space:

  • A file can be no larger than 128 MB.
  • The free account only accommodates up to 500 MB of storage. If you need more storage, you'll need to upgrade to a paid plan or install Omeka on your own web hosting server.

How to upload Items


Organize items into collections. Just as physical items only exist in one collection in an archives, Omeka only allows items to exist in one digital collection. When items are organized into collections, users can browse the project through these item sets.

How to make a Collection


Exhibits are curated digital showcases combining images, text, audio, video, and other uploaded items int oa coherent narrative for people to browse. Exhibits can pull items from multiple collections and bring them together for display. 

How to build an Exhibit

Planning and Site Mapping Methods

There are multiple ways you can outline your Omeka site and exhibits.  You can write an outline:

Title: Architecture of UIUC Libraries

I. Main Library exhibit

    A. Reference Room section

    B. Building Exterior section 

       1. Statues

       2. Wall Ornaments

II. Undergraduate Library exhibit

III. Mathematics Library exhibit



Or you can create a flow chart (Powerpoint was used to create this one):

A flowchart of the architecture of UIUC Libraries


If you prefer a more hands-on approach, you can arrange Post-Its on a wall or desk, cut out images to arrange on a flat surface, or do any other organizing methods you choose. The most important thing is to Plan Ahead.  

Open an Account

The easiest and most accessible way to use Omeka is to sign up for a hosted account. The hosted accounts on are available at four levels: The free Basic account provides one (1) site and 500 MB of storage space. If you need more space than this, you may upgrade your account at your expense. The Library does not have an institutional account for

  • To start a free site, select "Learn which plan is right for you" on the home page.
  • Select "Start your free Omeka trial" 
  • Enter the requested information
  • Then open your email account to find the confirmation email sent by Omeka
  • Click the confirmation email to activate your account

Create a Site

After you log into your new account, click on "My Account" at the top of the page. On the Account page (also called the Dashboard) click on “Add a Site.”

The "add a site" screen asks you for the subdomain name, the site title, and a description.

Title your site by filling in the Subdomain blank of “[    ]” and the Site Title entry space. Add a brief Site Description if you want, and then click “Add Your New Site.” You’ll then be taken back to My Dashboard, which now will list your site. 


The Dashboard shows the site name, storage used, and gives the option to visit, manage, or delete the site.


Click on the “Manage Site” link under the domain name, in order to get to the Omeka Admin "My Dashboard" to edit your website. For more assistance, see the documentation.