Our Marathon: The Boston Bombing Digital Archive

poster / demo / art installation
  1. 1. Jim McGrath

    Northeastern University

  2. 2. Alicia Peaker

    Northeastern University

Work text
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In May 2013, graduate students and faculty members at Northeastern University's NULab for Texts, Maps, and Networks began work on Our Marathon: The Boston Bombing Digital Archive (www.northeastern.edu/marathon). Motivated by the interest Northeastern’s students and faculty members displayed in sharing their stories about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings with one another, Our Marathon is an ambitious endeavor to create a central repository of stories and content related to the event and its aftermath. In the same ways that the September 11 Digital Archive and The Hurricane Digital Memory Bank utilized crowdsourcing to gather material, Our Marathon has reached out to a wide range of individuals (within and beyond the Boston community) to collect stories, photos, social media, and oral histories.

The project is invested in the role stories and community-building play in responding to traumatic events: it encourages members of the public to share the stories they may have already told about the Marathon on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and it provides a site for individuals to process and to reflect on the event in a variety of genres. Like its archival predecessors, Our Marathon is committed to creating a digital forum that has value to individuals in the immediate present and to researchers and other interested parties in the decades to come. Using the Omeka web-publishing platform, the archive has been attentive to the long-term preservation standards favored by archivists and university librarians, gathering and updating metadata on its items with DublinCore standards in mind. That being said, the project also seeks to convince an audience beyond these academic contexts that the work of digital humanists is also valuable to them.

The ongoing work of building the Our Marathon digital archive has raised several questions that may be of interest to other digital humanists. How do investments in academic and non-academic audiences inform a digital archive’s content, interface, and accessibility? How can digital archivists productively collaborate across disciplines at home institutions, with students and scholars at other academic institutions, with community organizations, and with media partners? What are some of the challenges of creating a digital archive about a traumatic event shortly after its occurrence and within close proximity to many of the communities and areas directly affected by that event? What are the advantages and disadvantages of crowdsourced initiatives? How can digital archives compellingly represent and catalogue material like Facebook statuses and Tweets for both researchers and the public? What steps can digital humanists take to ensure long-term preservation of their digital projects? We also encourage attendees to navigate the archive and to share their own stories with Our Marathon.

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Conference Info


ADHO - 2014
"Digital Cultural Empowerment"

Hosted at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Université de Lausanne

Lausanne, Switzerland

July 7, 2014 - July 12, 2014

377 works by 898 authors indexed

XML available from https://github.com/elliewix/DHAnalysis (needs to replace plaintext)

Conference website: https://web.archive.org/web/20161227182033/https://dh2014.org/program/

Attendance: 750 delegates according to Nyhan 2016

Series: ADHO (9)

Organizers: ADHO