With the Neatline plugin for Omeka, you can create interactive map-based narratives that can be really engaging. Unfortunately, it’s also got a bit of a learning curve. Here, we’ll go through the process of making a Neatline exhibit to get started.

When you first create a Neatline exhibit, you’re presented with quite a few options for creating the exhibit. Some of them you should always look at, and others you don’t have to worry about unless you’re doing something fancy or unusual.

As you see above, the main options that you’ll always need to consider are the Title, Narrative, and Default Spatial Layer. That’s all we’ll worry about here, but there’s another post on Neatline Exhibit Options that goes into detail on the setup. For now, we’ll stick to a very basic setup.

Just as Items are the building blocks of your Omeka site, Records are the building blocks of a Neatline exhibit. You can give Records titles, descriptions, map data, and styles to make them meaningful to your story.

That didn’t do anything other than create a Record, a container for information. No part of a Record is mandatory, but a record with nothing in it is boring, so let’s add some geography.

You’ll almost always want to use the drawing tools in Neatline to make your map. It’s also possible to import geometry into Neatline in the box at the bottom of the map tab, but that gets complicated pretty quickly.

You have a lot of options for how your Record will show up on the map under the Record’s “Styles” tab. One option that’s as important as it is easy to miss is the default zoom and focus for your record. If you don’t set this, the when your record is selected the map will zoom to the smallest area that contains all of your geometry, which might be the closest zoom possible.

Fortunately, it’s quite easy to set. All you have to do is move the map to the view you want for your Record and click “Use Current Viewport as Default”. Just know that this saves the center of the map and the zoom level, so different size screens may show a bit more or less of the map.

That’s a pretty basic Neatline setup, but there are loads of options to fiddle with, and additional abilities that you can enable with plugins. Many of these additional capabilities will be detailed in other posts.