Scholarly Smackdown: Scalar vs. Omeka

Scholarly Smackdown is the Scholarly Commons’ new review series comparing popular online research tools and resources. This week we’ll be taking a look at Scalar and Omeka, resources for presenting research digitally.

No scholars were harmed in the making of this column.

Scalar

Scalar is a content management system for creating digital books of media scholarship from The Alliance for Networking Visual Culture, based out of University of Southern California. It features a WYSISWYG editor that allows you to edit different types of pages within a digital book. You choose how and in what way these pages connect. It’s free and you can create as many Scalar books as you want. It makes it easy to incorporate content from partner archives such as the Internet Archive and Critical Commons. The biggest selling point to Scalar, especially for media scholars, is that it lets you present media without having to host the media yourself, which is especially relevant for those analyzing media that is still under copyright. However, please do not let all of this potential power go to your head, and instead check out our copyright resources and feel free to contact the Copyright Librarian, Sara Benson with questions you may have.
In my opinion, Scalar is not as easy or intuitive to use as the people who created it seem to think it is, though USC provides some instructions for Scalar 2. The latest update has been buggy, and while ANVC/Scalar GitHub is very helpful, Scalar is clearly still a work in progress. If you do have any experience with web development, there is very limited customization, and I was not able to find specific instructions for CSS styling for Scalar 2. Finally, you cannot import  your own files larger than 2 MB, which can be frustrating if you want to use your own very high quality scans of items.

Omeka

Omeka.net is a content management system designed for creating online exhibits from the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University and Corporation for Digital Scholarship, the people behind  Zotero and THAT Camp.
Omeka basic features a WYSIWYG Editor and 500MB of file storage. The biggest advantage of Omeka is that it makes it very easy to add a lot of metadata about items that you want to display in an exhibit and create and arrange collections of these items. It also features lots of plugins (such as a CSS editor and a PDF embedded documents viewer), and the website provides very clear and thorough instructions. However, you can create only one Omeka site per account on the free version. If you contact the Scholarly Commons we can set up an Omeka site for you through the library institutional account, and you can learn more information and request an Omeka site here. 
One major difference between Omeka and Scalar is that with more storage, comes more responsibility; specifically, making sure that you have the permission to use items so that your research does not get taken down. Once again — please check out our copyright resources. Other notable drawbacks include the fact that customization is limited and Omeka.net is not great at creating things that aren’t online exhibits or exhibit-like sites.

Conclusion
Omeka and Scalar are two options of many for creating digital humanities projects. For specific questions and to learn more about Scalar and Omeka and other digital humanities resources at Scholarly Commons email us, and don’t forget to join us for a Savvy Research workshop about Scalar October 17 from 1-2 pm.

Let us know in the comments about your Scalar and Omeka experiences! Which do you prefer and why?

Further Reading:
Omeka Libguide: http://guides.library.illinois.edu/omeka
Scalar Libguide: http://guides.library.illinois.edu/scalar

Sources:

“Alliance for Networking Visual Culture » Overview.” Accessed October 12, 2016. http://scalar.usc.edu/features/overview/.
Marcotte, Alison and Alex Villanueva. “Red Cross Work on Mutilés, At Paris (1918).” SourceLab Prototype Series 1, no. 1 (2015). http://scalar.usc.edu/works/red-cross-work-1918/index.
“Image of Research” Accessed October 12, 2016.  http://imageofresearch.omeka.net/

Introducing Sara Benson, Copyright Librarian & Assistant Professor, Scholarly Communications and Publishing Unit

Sara

Today we’re welcoming Sara Benson as a Scholarly Commons affiliate. While Sara has been at the University of Illinois for over ten years, she joined the library staff this August as our Copyright Librarian & Assistant Professor in the Scholarly Communications and Publishing Unit. Keep reading to get to know Sara.


What is your background education and work experience?

I am a lawyer with ten years of experience teaching at the law school level at the University of Illinois College of Law. Prior to joining the College of Law, I worked both in a large international law firm and a small boutique non-profit law firm.

What led you to this field?

When people turn forty, they examine their life and their career goals. The same was true for me. I decided to add to my existing legal knowledge by joining the MLIS program at the iSchool part-time.Through the iSchool, I learned that I could combine my passion for the law with my new love of librarianship by working as a Copyright Librarian—and here I am!

What is your research agenda?
Right now I am working on a large-scale project to study the effectiveness of fair use training on librarians. I believe that fair use can and should be taught to librarians and, despite the fact that it is a complicated area of the law, I think librarians can digest and apply the information in their everyday jobs. Thus, I am currently working on a study to test the outcome of a fair use training session for librarians.
Do you have any favorite work-related duties?
Yes. I already love helping to provide guidance to researchers, students, and scholars about copyright related information. I helped secure the right to film an Indian film at the Tagore Festival and the patron I assisted invited me to take part in the festivities. So, already I am receiving such positive results and feedback, which makes my job a pure joy.
What are some of your favorite underutilized resources that you would recommend to researchers?
I think fair use is not utilized enough in research and teaching as a whole to justify transformative aspects of our jobs as professors and scholars. I think we (as a University) should take advantage of the fair use defense to the full extent of the law.
If you could recommend only one book to beginning researchers in your field, what would you recommend?

I would recommend Kevin L. Smith’s book titled: “Owning and Using Scholarship: An IP Handbook for Teachers and Researchers.” I just read it over the summer prior to beginning my position and it is invaluable.