Neatline Plugin

Building an interactive map using Omeka’s Neatline plugin

Neatline is a plugin for Omeka that allows for the creation of interactive maps and timelines. Neatline allows the user to plot points on geospatial layers that, when clicked, reveal text and media. Users may create records from scratch and add them to their Neatline exhibits, or import existing items from Omeka. See for demos of this tool in action and more documentation.

Before using this tool, you’ll need to install the Neatline plugin to Omeka. Follow the instructions on the “Installing Plugins” section of this support page.


Item: Omeka’s basic building block, containing text, media, and/or metadata.
Collection: A group of items, typically sharing a common theme.
Record: Neatline’s version of items. Can be created on their own, or imported from an existing item in Omeka.
Exhibit: A Neatline map or timeline; contains your records.
Widget: An add-on tool for Neatline, such as Waypoints.
Spatial layer: A navigable map that Neatline can use, typically pulled from Google Maps. The various options Neatline offers have different aesthetics.

Setting up (first time only)

1. Install the Neatline plugin (see above). Install any additional supporting plugins you’d like, such as Neatline Waypoints.

2. Go to your Plugins page in Omeka. After Neatline is installed, click “configure” to the right of Neatline.

On the configuration page, click the link to If possible, open this link in a new tab, since you’ll soon need to return to the configuration page.

3. On the Google page that opens, follow the prompts to “Create Credentials” and “API Key.” This documention provides more detailed instructions. You will be asked to set up a billing account, but you receive $200 for free, which is more than enough for a use such as this. When you’re given a long string of characters, copy it. This is your Google Maps API Key. You’ll only need it once.

4. Return to the Neatline configuration page from step 2. Paste your API Key into the text box. Then click the green “Save Changes” button. Neatline is now connected to Google Maps.

5. Click Settings at top right of your Omeka dashboard. In the text box to the right of “ImageMagick Directory Path,” enter this exact text without the quotation marks: “/usr/bin”. Then click the green Save Changes button at top right. This will allow Omeka to handle your images properly.

Neatline is now ready to go!

Managing Neatline exhibits and using the editor

1. Create an exhibit. Your Neatline map will be known as an exhibit. It’s now time to create this map. Click Neatline on the lefthand dashboard menu, which brings you to the Browse Exhibits page. Then click the green Create an Exhibit button.

On the Create an Exhibit page: give your exhibit a Title, Narrative (optional but recommended), and Widgets (if you’d like to use Waypoints or another add-on you’ve previously installed). The Narrative is the exhibit’s primary textual description, and it will appear alongside your map.

Scroll down and select a Default Spatial Layer from the drop-down menu. The Default Spatial Layer is the default map style your exhibit will display. You can edit this any time, so try out a few and see which aesthetic you like best. You can also optionally use the Embed Spatial Layers field to allow your viewers to toggle between various map styles.

The only other setting you need to change here (eventually) is Public: when you check this box, your exhibit will be live. When you’re done, click the green Save Exhibit button at the bottom of the form.

2. Access the Neatline editor. Return to the Browse Exhibits page from step 1. To access the editor, click your exhibit’s title. Clicking Public View or Fullscreen View will let you preview how your exhibit will look to visitors.

Here is what the editor looks like. Notice the Records, Styles, and Plugins tabs, and the list of records below the blue New Record button (there won’t be any records until you add some):

3. Set the default focus. This is the latitude/longitude and zoom that viewers will see when they first open your map (they’ll then be able to move it however they’d like). In the editor, click the Styles tab. Click and drag on your map to move it around, and use the + and – symbols at top left to zoom in and out. When you’re satisfied with the current view of the map, click the Use Current Viewport as Default button. This will automatically fill-in coordinates and the depth of zoom. You can also manually add these. When you’re done, click the blue Save button.

4. Import items into your exhibit, which then become records. First, click the Records tab in the editor. Then, click the large blue New Record button.

New tabs will appear. Click the Item tab. You’ll see a drop-down menu called “Search Omeka items.” This will list all the Omeka items you’ve previously created. Find the item you wish to add to the map and select it. The item’s content appears below the drop-down menu. If it looks correct, click the blue Save button. If not, click “View the item in Omeka,” edit the item, and try again.

NOTE: If you edit an item in Omeka that you’ve already imported into your Neatline exhibit, its record in the exhibit will be automatically updated.

NOTE #2: You can also create records from scratch using the New Record button and the Text tab (without making an Omeka item first). However, this isn’t recommended if you wish to include images or other media in your record, since that media would require additional HTML formatting.

5. Pin your records to the map. You can access any of your records from the list of records on the editor’s main page (see the screenshot in step 2 of this section, looking under the New Record button). Once you’re in a record, you can place it on the map. If you’ve just created a record using the Item tab from the previous step, then you’re already in that record.

Once in the record, click the Map tab. You can draw many different shapes here (and feel free to experiment!), but for our purposes, we’ll look at two buttons: “Navigate” and “Draw Point.”

When “Navigate” is selected, you can move your map around without adding anything. When “Draw Point” is selected, you can click on the map to place a blue pin. When a viewer clicks this pin, she’ll see the record associated with it. When you’re done, click Save.

For example: I have a record containing text and images about Shakespeare’s first performance of Henry V in London. I can go into my Henry V record and use “Draw Point” to place a pin on London. Now, the viewer can click the blue dot on London to bring up this record.

Optionally, you can use the Style tab in a record (to the right of the Map tab) to change the appearance of points and shapes for that record.

You can add as many interactive points or shapes as you’d like.

6. Add widgets to your record (optional). If you’re using the Waypoints widget, select it by clicking in the Widgets field. See the next step for more information about Waypoints.

When you’re done, click Save. Then, you can exit out of the record and back to the editor’s main page by clicking the X above the Style tab. You can return to Omeka by clicking “Return to Omeka.”

7. Adding Waypoints: a table of contents for your map. The following guide from explains how to add a list of clickable records to your map, so viewers can jump from point to point without searching the map for them:

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