Omeka Toolkit: Metadata

This guide is a toolkit of resources about Omeka compiled for a series of workshops for Virginia Tech faculty, staff, and students, as well as our larger community.

Metadata Overview

Metadata is the backbone of making your items and collections discoverable in Omeka. It also helps in the creation of Omeka exhibits. Essentially, it is information about information: information about the items and collections you are including your site. This section of the guide includes basics about the metadata schema used in Omeka and how you can create metadata for collections and items. It also includes suggested resources for developing consistent, structured metadata using authoritative sources, should you choose to use those.

Omeka Schema

Omeka uses a subset of the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative (DCMI) as its standard. You can read about DCMI Metadata Terms in detail on the website: You can add items to Omeka without knowing DCMI Metadata Terms--the main recommendation is that you develop standards for how you create your metadata and stick to them--but the Metadata Terms site can help you understand how to use a particular metadata field if you are uncertain. It is a great resource for understanding the basics.

Creating Metadata for Collections

Before you upload items via csv or manually add them to your Omeka site, you may wish to create one or more collections. Collections are a way to bring together similar materials in a visual way in Omeka. You do not need to create a collection or collections before adding items. You can also move items into a collection later, if you decide to do so. 

All of the same metadata fields you would use for an item can also be used for a collection, but since a collection may be representative of items with different information, you do not need to fill out all of the metadata fields and you may not want to use them all. Below are some recommended fields to use for a collection, which will provide some basic details for you and your users to understand what the collection represents. 

The more detailed directions for collection level metadata developed for the Virginia Tech University Libraries' Omeka workshops are available online: The entire document document about metadata creation is also online:

Creating Metadata for Items Using CSV

When creating item-level metadata, there are a few things to keep in mind. Items can exist in Omeka as independent from a collection or within a collection. You can also attempt to create more complex hierarchies, but Omeka is an exhibit system, not a preservation system, so it is easier to stay relatively “flat” in structure.

In general, directions in this section are written for using the csv template to import items in bulk. However, for the most part, you can adapt and use these directions to manually add individual items to Omeka. The primary difference is that in places where the directions talk about using a delimiter to differentiate information, you can a) put multiple items in the field with a delimiter OR b) repeat the field as needed. The csv file will also allow you to include correctly formatted html hyperlinks <a href=”[link]>text</a> and html formatting (<p>, <b>, <i>) in all fields. In theory, it supports more complex html, but in practice, this is not recommended, as Omeka fields are small and not designed for substantial text or formatting.

The detailed directions for filling out the item level csv template, along with some notes about manual creation of item metadata, developed for the Virginia Tech University Libraries' Omeka workshops are available online: The entire document about metadata creation is also online:

Note: Please make a copy of the Sheets item level csv template for your own use or download a copy. If you opt to download a copy, we recommend you download it as a csv file. If you download and open the file in Excel, it can create errors in your data and you will need to open it in Sheets again, then save it has a csv file prior to uploading it to Omeka. 

Some Suggested Vocabularies and Authorities

There are many, many authorities, controlled or standard vocabularies, and other discipline-specific lists for describing digital objects and items. You do not need to use any of them, but you may wish to incorporate use of them into your Omeka metadata. This list is not comprehensive, but it is a starting point for metadata fields where a standard or best practice is common. You may also wish to explore the use of taxonomies and tools within your discipline.

Omeka Help

Are you working on an Omeka project? Do you need help getting started? Stuck on an issue or have a problem you can't resolve? Email us ( and we will connect you with someone at the University Libraries who will try to help!