Alicia Peaker (Middlebury College) and Joanne DeCaro (Northeastern University)
In May 2013, students and faculty members at Northeastern University began work on Our Marathon: The Boston Bombing Digital Archive (www.northeastern.edu/marathon), a digital humanities project built with Omeka. Motivated by the Boston community’s interest in sharing stories about the 2013 Boston marathon bombings, Our Marathon is an ambitious endeavor to create a central repository of stories and content related to the event and its aftermath. Using crowdsourcing to gather material, Our Marathon has reached out to a wide range of individuals (within and beyond the Boston community) to collect over 9,000 items, including stories, photos, social media, and oral histories. Much of this work has been made possible through fostering partnerships with government agencies (The City of Boston Archives), local media (WBUR, WCVB-TV), and institutions like the Digital Public Library of America, among others.
During this project presentation, we will discuss the vital roles community-building and collaboration across rank, discipline, and institution took in the success of the project. Our Marathon demoed a range of community outreach projects, many designed by undergraduate students, including “Share Your Story” events, photo contests, and memorial exhibits. In this presentation, we will describe the methods and results of these crowdsourcing and community-building efforts as a way to move towards best practices for public digital humanities projects. Because Our Marathon serves as both a public memorial of a recent, traumatic event and a digital archive of materials available to researchers for decades to come, building connections among public and academic communities has perhaps been both the greatest challenge and the greatest opportunity of this project.