Our Marathon: The Boston Bombing Digital Archive

Link: http://marathon.neu.edu


I was the founding project director for Our Marathon, the fastest-moving, most capacious, and most organizationally complex project of my career thus far. Certainly it had the largest team, comprising several faculty members, a stellar group of graduate students, several undergraduates, and a host of partners and volunteers from institutions around the city of Boston. We describe the mission of this project in this way,

“Our Marathon” is a crowd-sourced archive of pictures, videos, stories, and even social media related to the Boston Marathon; the bombing on April 15, 2013; the subsequent search, capture, and trial of the individuals who planted the bombs; and the city’s healing process. “Our Marathon” will allow the public to explore not only what happened during the event, but also how the event was experienced by Bostonians, visitors to the city, and those many members of the “Boston diaspora” who were far away but deeply engaged in the unfolding events. The archive will serve as a long-term memorial, preserving these records for students and researchers, providing future historians with invaluable, local windows into an important national event.

Much of the media attention in the wake of the bombing has focused on the two men accused of planting the bombs, as well as, importantly, on the victims and survivors of the violence. We see this archive as a way to allow a wider range of important stories about these events to be told and shared. The bombing changed lives in ways small and large and in ways that were immediate and more enduring. This is a place for those images, emotions, and experiences to be shared and for us to understand the event in its broad, community-wide dimensions.

My role as founding project director had a wide mandate, including the duties listed below. However, my proudest accomplishment in this project is the last item listed. Namely, I was able after the first months to pass the direction of the project off to the amazing graduate student team.

As founding project director, I:

  1. Worked with Co-PIs to seek initial funding for the project, a $50,000 internal grant from Northeastern University.
  2. Interviewed and hired the graduate students who worked on the project, as well as the first undergraduate assistants.
  3. Trained the team in Omeka and basic metadata standards for archival projects.
  4. Collaborated with the team to develop the project’s mission statement, vision, founding standards, strategic plan, outreach goals, and press strategy.
  5. Coordinated initial call for project volunteers.
  6. Directed initial platform development, as we customized Omeka to meet specific project needs.
  7. Worked as point person for proposing and negotiating major project collaborations, including the oral history partnership with WBUR public radio, WCVB TV, the Boston Globe‘s GlobeLab, and the Digital Public Library of America. I also ran meetings with the City of Boston government about the project.
  8. Helped secure private funding from WBUR and Iron Mountain to support the project 2013-2015.
  9. Helped organize first public events, such as our “Share Your Story” booths at libraries and memorial events around Boston.
  10. Mentored graduate students as they each took charge of one aspect of the project. Grad students eventually led a content team, a technical development team, an oral history team, a public events team, and a social media team.

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