Omeka Workshop Slides

Thank you to everyone who was able to attend the Omeka brown bag workshop this afternoon! As promised, here are the slides I used during the workshop:

IRIS Center Open House: Thursday, January 28, 1-3pm

Join IRIS (Peck Hall, 0226) this Thursday, January 28th from 1-3pm for our annual open house showcase.

Learn more about recent and ongoing projects, including:

Learn more about what IRIS can offer you:

  • IRIS can facilitate the conceptualization and design of cross-disciplinary and collaborative projects with digital applications
  • IRIS can support such projects via access to specialized computing facilities
  • IRIS can foster mentorship and collaboration between faculty and students at both undergraduate and graduate levels
  • IRIS can facilitate the development of curricular innovation that makes significant use of digital and informatics applications and resources
  • IRIS can promote digital endeavors that link scholarly resources and goals with community initiatives and organizations

Snacks and beverages will be provided!

IRIS Student Profile: Sarah Song’s Work on the Manang Languages Project

Hello, my name is Sarah Song and I am a Junior Business Administration major with a specialization in Human Resources. My time as an Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (URCA) student with Dr. Kristine Hildebrandt this Fall has been an influential experience. Though not related directly to my major, I felt that my work with the Manang Languages Project would provide me with a valuable skill set that I could easily translate into the business administration world.

My primary tasks this semester were to properly format and complete grammatical edits for Nepali language recordings captured by Dr. Hildebrandt and her research team during their time in Nepal. These minuscule, sentence-by-sentence edits, helped me to take a closer look at the details that make up another language, and, through that, another culture. Knowing that my work is a part of a greater goal to preserve this language for others to research and appreciate, makes each tiny edit worth it. I’m learning that a successful business model involves creating a connection with people first and foremost. As I spent time with the language, I was able to feel a kind of connection with the Nepali people and, through my work, I will also be able to provide the opportunity for others to form connections and use these recordings for their research.

Communication is another important component in the business administration world and language is one tool we use in order to communicate our ideas. Having the opportunity to explore the structure of a new language helped to broaden my perspective on effective communication in different cultures.

I also had the opportunity to work with technology in a new way. This semester I learned how to use tools such as: Elan, Toolbox, and Dropbox.  Working on this project has allowed me to explore a new culture, discover new digital tools, and think about different ways to use my business administration background.

Upcoming Omeka Update: A post from student, Ben Ostermeier

For about 4 years now, the Wide, Wide World Digital Edition has used the Omeka web publishing platform. We have not, however, kept up with the updates to the Omeka software, as more recent versions configure the themes and database differently. The newer version has grown increasingly tempting, as it both allows for more flexibility in creating exhibits and has a built in responsive design, meaning the website will be viewable on smaller-resolution phones and tablets.

Thankfully, my growing expertise in web development has given me the confidence to attempt the update. Already, I’ve made a few minor tweaks to the websites theme this past spring, but now we’re heading for larger update to the latest version of Omeka. Thus far, I have made a newer theme compatible with the latest version of Omeka that is also responsive.

Under the guidance of Dr. DeSpain and the fellow members of the project, I’ve based the theme on a prototype design for the website along with the current version. Check out the comparison below:


This is an old prototype of the website theme



This is the current theme



This is a prototype theme for the new version of the website

I’m not yet done with the theme. It is likely I will replace the blue-green book cover with a red one to tie it to the color scheme. I will also possibly add a subtle texture to the background. Still, look forward to that update sometime soon.

SIUE IRIS 2015-2016 Users & Groups

We proudly present the 2015-2016 IRIS users and groups! Stay tuned for 2015-2016 project updates and IRIS users’ first hand accounts on their research, tools, trials, and triumphs.



Introducing the IRIS Lab Technician, Kayla Hays


Hello, IRIS Lab community. This is just a quick blurb to introduce myself and let you learn a bit about where I’m from, how the IRIS Lab and I can assist with your projects, and some of my goals during my time here.

Who am I?

I completed my BA in English with a minor in Mass Communications right here at SIUE. My undergraduate experience here was invaluable and had a substantial impact on the type of student and professional I am today.

In fact, my interest in the world of digital humanities was fostered here in the IRIS Lab. In 2011 I began working with Dr. DeSpain as a volunteer on The Wide, Wide World Digital Edition project. I continued working on the project as an URCA Assistant and then as an Editorial Assistant for a semester following graduation.

This past August I finished graduate school at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for library and information science. During graduate school, I worked as a graduate assistant in the Main Library in the Scholarly Commons and as a marketing and outreach assistant for the Student Life and Culture Archives.

How Can I Help?

If you’re interested in starting a grant-funded project, I’d be happy to meet with you to discuss potential options. I’m also available to provide guidance if you’ve already begun the grant writing process or if you’re considering resubmission.

I’m also here to provide a face for the IRIS Lab. If you’re curious about the opportunities and services this space can provide for you and your students, I’m here to answer your questions as well as assist with current and ongoing IRIS related projects.


  • Provide advice and tutorials/workshops to faculty on digital projects.
  • Cultivate faculty projects and provide assistance with each step of the grant application process: Let’s chat about the ways in which the IRIS Lab can help support that project you always wanted to tackle.
  • Develop a social media plan: It would be great to see regular posts on the blog and to consistently share our day-to-day activities in the lab! All (directly or indirectly involved with the lab) are welcome to contribute.
  • Find and research new, open source tools for the lab.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any IRIS related questions. You can also just stop in, say hello, and have a look at the space (PH 0226).

Coding for Community

Middle School Students Feature Local Culture and History Through SIUE “Digital East St. Louis” Project

Rachel Pehle works with two participants to upload photos for the walking tour of East St. Louis.East St. Louis middle school students are looking at their city through a camera lens, capturing images that help provide a deeper understanding of the culture and history embedded in their local streets. Their photographs will be one portion of a website that includes content-rich digital maps the students are creating through Southern Illinois University Edwardsville’s “Digital East St. Louis” project.

The three-year project, which began this summer, is using digital humanities, a field that uses digital technologies to study questions related to history and culture, to generate interest in computing and information technologies among minority middle school-aged students. It is supported by an $846,000 Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) grant awarded to SIUE from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The multidisciplinary effort is being led by Sharon Locke, director of the SIUE Center for STEM Research, Education and Outreach; Jessica DeSpain, English professor and co-director of the Interdisciplinary Research and Informatics Scholarship (IRIS) Center at SIUE; and Liza Cummings, professor of curriculum and instruction at SIUE.

“Research shows that middle school is when children begin to lose interest in STEM fields,” said Locke, principal investigator. “This study is examining out-of-school learning and what role it can have in shaping students’ STEM interest, attitudes and educational choices.

“The average American spends less than five percent of their life in a classroom,” she continued. “We need to understand what types of programs best complement classroom learning and promote lifelong learning in STEM. Our research will examine changes in student interests as well as their gains in technology skills over time.”

Students will gain knowledge and experience relative to careers in a variety of fields including IT, web development, information science, graphic design and mass communication.

During the project’s tenure, participants will produce a comprehensive website of artifacts that will be an ongoing resource for the community. They will use GIS (geographic information systems) technology and database design and management to create content for the site, including a walking tour of East St. Louis neighborhoods. Students will also interview community members, photograph historical sites, write stories about the region and film important cultural events.

Amanda Garner-Brooks instructs “Digital East St. Louis” students.“Our research goal is to gauge whether the use of humanities-based and place-based learning will increase student interest in technologically advanced fields,” DeSpain said. “We also hope to encourage students to take ownership and develop pride in their community and motivate them to pursue a college education in a STEM field.”

“The students will feature their project at Coding for Community Showcases,” Locke added. “We also will have a parent advisory group that will help us connect to individuals in the community who can contribute their time and expertise.”

Area middle school teachers and an after-school/summer program coordinator are teaching the curriculum. Their participation allows for the spreading of the humanities-based approach to STEM learning in other academic environments. The program model will be made widely available to educators nationwide.

“This project is an outstanding example of what can be accomplished when people from different disciplines come together to tackle a problem,” Locke said. “We have faculty and staff with expertise in STEM, digital humanities, history, African American studies, curriculum and instruction, K-12 teaching and informal learning.

The three-year program will run all week for four weeks through the summer, as well as 15 Saturdays during the school year. Through the NSF grant, up to 50 students can participate. Students receive breakfast, a snack and lunch, along with free transportation to a local middle school.

Interested sixth through ninth graders can apply for the “Digital East St. Louis” project by contacting Dr. Liza Cummings at

Photo: Rachel Pehle works with two participants to upload photos for the walking tour of East St. Louis.

Amanda Garner-Brooks instructs “Digital East St. Louis” students.