Our Marathon: The Boston Bombing Digital Archive

The Boston Marathon is woven into the fabric of our community: it brings together runners from around the world, spectators, family members, and neighbors, creating a tapestry of people stretching from Hopkinton to downtown Boston. The April 15, 2013, bombing at the Marathon finish line aimed to destroy that fabric. From May 2013 to the fall of 2014, Our Marathon invited interested parties to help mend and strengthen the fabric of our community by contributing stories and media to our digital archive. The project was originally founded in April 2013 by faculty and students affiliated with the NULab for Texts, Maps, and Networks in the College of Social Sciences and Humanities at Northeastern University. Since September 2014 the Digital Scholarship Group at Northeastern University Libraries has managed the site and its long-term migration and preservation.

Our Marathon is a crowdsourced 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 allows 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 serves 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 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 project as a way to allow a wider range of important stories about these events to be told and shared. The bombings 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.

In the spring of 2013, Our Marathon hosted a series of “Share Your Story” events at public libraries and universities across Boston and surrounding areas, culminating in a series of events at the Boston Public Library that coincided with the one-year anniversary of the bombings and a physical exhibit of memorial items and reflections. Our Marathon won a 2013 Digital Humanities Award for “Best DH project for public audiences.”