A team of dig­ital human­i­ties researchers at North­eastern is leading the devel­op­ment of a com­pre­hen­sive dig­ital archive fea­turing sto­ries, photos, videos, oral his­to­ries, social media, and other mate­rials related to last month’s tragic Boston Marathon bomb­ings. The group will engage the public for the first time on Sat­urday at #onerun, an event for Boston Marathon run­ners who didn’t finish the race to finally com­plete the final mile.

Our Marathon is project run through Northeastern’s NULab for Texts, Maps, and Net­works—the university’s research-​​based center for Dig­ital Human­i­ties and Com­pu­ta­tional Social Sci­ence. The archive will serve as a long-​​term memo­rial that pre­serves these records for stu­dents and researchers, pro­vides an impor­tant resource for future his­to­rians, and cre­ates an envi­ron­ment for the public to share its experiences.

At Saturday’s #onerun event, the NULab team will have a sta­tion set up for vis­i­tors inter­ested in pro­viding on-​​camera inter­views that will be archived on the Our Marathon web­site. The team will also have lap­tops avail­able to show vis­i­tors how to upload con­tent directly through the site, which is still in beta form.

Ryan Cordell, assistant professor of English

Ryan Cordell, assis­tant pro­fessor of English

This archive is really a way to help with healing process and pre­serve these mem­o­ries for the his­tor­ical record,” said Ryan Cordell, an assis­tant pro­fessor of Eng­lish and Our Marathon’s project man­ager. “We want to cap­ture as many mate­rials as we can that help tell the stories—not just the what hap­pened, but how people expe­ri­enced what happened.”

The NULab team will hold more public out­reach events throughout the summer to spread aware­ness and encourage the com­mu­nity to par­tic­i­pate while mem­o­ries are still fresh in people’s minds. The team is also exploring part­ner­ships with media orga­ni­za­tions, gov­ern­ment offi­cials, and other uni­ver­si­ties to grow the project and increase its impact.

In related news, NULab co-​​director David Lazer has been ana­lyzing the texts and tweets sent out fol­lowing the bomb­ings to fur­ther under­stand how people use their social net­works during emer­gen­cies. This data, which he said he could be used to improve emer­gency response, will also included in the dig­ital archive.

These projects are among a number of ongoing efforts at the NULab and across the uni­ver­sity that exem­plify Northeastern’s lead­er­ship in the emerging field of dig­ital human­i­ties, which falls at that inter­sec­tion of com­pu­ta­tional and social sciences.

Dig­ital human­i­ties is a very pub­licly engaged field,” Cordell said. “Dig­ital projects are highly vis­ible and inter­ac­tive, and the Our Marathon project will allow the NULab to build on the strengths it’s cul­ti­vating here by cre­ating a public project that ben­e­fits the community.”

The Boston Marathon bomb­ings on April 15 killed three people, injured more than 260, and left the entire nation grap­pling with its emo­tions in the wake of the tragedy. A week after the bomb­ings, and only days after a tense man­hunt for one of the sus­pected bombers con­cluded with his cap­ture, Eng­lish pro­fessor Eliz­a­beth Mad­dock Dillon lis­tened as her grad­uate stu­dents shared their unique con­nec­tions to the attack. Struck by how each stu­dent had his or her own story to tell, Dillon emailed her col­leagues at the NULab with her obser­va­tion, sparking a con­ver­sa­tion about ways to col­lect all these sto­ries in one place. From there, the Our Marathon project took shape.

Dillon, co-​​director of the NULab, envi­sions the dig­ital archive as a mul­ti­pur­pose data­base, one whose col­lec­tions of sto­ries will help the com­mu­nity heal, facil­i­tate a wide variety of future research, and serve as resource for com­mu­nity building.

My sense of this archive is that it would tell the story of the entire com­mu­nity,” she said.

Mem­bers of the North­eastern com­mu­nity who have a story or other media related to the marathon events can con­tribute to the archive at http://​marathon​.neu​.edu. Stu­dents, alumni, or other com­mu­nity mem­bers inter­ested in vol­un­teering along­side Northeastern’s Our Marathon team this summer can email marathon@​neu.​edu for more information.