where southwest virginia digital archive is built on

Digital library platform for SVDA

Photographs, journals, paintings, and more from the Southwest Virginia region.


items available for access




regional partners


campus partners

SVDA uses Omeka as the digital library platform

While the library is still developing a more permanent homegrown digital library, Omeka is used as the temporary digital library platform for Southwest Virginia Digital Archive (SVDA). The Omeka is used as an exhibit platform, a repository to contain the partners’ digital objects, an ingestion tool, and the public-facing website providing collaboration information for the prospective institution partners.

Better than nothing until flaws starting to surface

Despite using the software out of the box without any customization, users still have to know their way around programming to tweak and debug the software. Users can have extended functions with installation of plugins. However, the more plugins used, the interactions between plugins and the system become more complex. Lastly, the system is not constructed with structure to facilitate preservation.

“The odd term normal accident is meant to signal that, given the system characteristics, multiple and unexpected interaction of failures are inevitable”

– Charles Perrow

The Omeka plugin has linear interaction with the system but when all the plugins are combined, it becomes complex interactions where it will create unpredictable relationships causing unintended and unknown results. There are least fortunate cases where the Dublin Core Extension plugin deactivated from the system and all the metadata kept in the qualified Dublin core database were deleted.

Plugins used

  • ArchiveRepertory
  • BulkMetadataEditor
  • CollectionTree
  • CsvExport
  • CsvImport
  • CsvImportPlus
  • DublinCoreExtended
  • ExhibitBuilder
  • ShortcodeCarousel
  • SimplePages
  • UniversalViewer

11 active plugins = 11! tests

11! = 39,916,800 test sets

the open source software, Omeka was designed as an online exhibition tool.

Nevertheless, the SVDA uses Omeka as a full-fledged digital library, as a repository, CRM, and DAM. It is challenging but not impossible with thoughtful planning and comprehensive testing. Major Omeka system issues were identified at the early stage and different solutions are tested to get the optimum results. As more plugins increasing combination sets of tests needed to run, only essential plugins are installed.

Other than using Omeka plugins for platform system issues found, some hybrid solutions are implemented to solve issues beyond Omeka system. For example, for preservation purposes, the Archive Repertory plugin is used to solve the backend file structure issue, while the data management, checksums, and derivative files are handled independently with different systems or tools. That is to ensure that the digital curation system has a flexible relationship between parts to decrease effects on the overall system when a component within the system fails.

Beyond the closed system with Omeka and DPLA poster presented in CALA Annual Conference Program on June 22, 2019. The poster illustrated the overall system workflows, issues, and solutions with limited resources.

About SVDA

The SVDA is a temporary digital library built on Omeka providing access to partners’ digital content to the researchers and general public.