Sports represent the pulse of our country, of our cities. During World War II, President Roosevelt did not suspend baseball in order to keep up the morale of soldiers. While many grew concerned the sport wasted troops strength, service members like Private Clifford P Mansfield at Fort Knox, Kentucky wrote, "For the morale of the soldier and the morale of America itself, ‘keep ‘em playing’." In 1980, the United States “Miracle” hockey team beat the 6-time champion Soviet Union team. Then as now, many Americans believed that moment represented a turning point in the Cold War. Similarly, in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina pummeled the city of New Orleans, the New Orleans Saints went on to a franchise record season and a Super Bowl victory in 2009, reinvigorating a still recovering community.

The power of sports to provide hope, excitement, and optimism is profound and deserves consideration when trying to understand the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing experience. On October 4, 2013, the Boston Red Sox honored Marathon survivors, first responders, and volunteers in a ceremony before the start of the American League Divisional Series against the Tampa Bay Rays. This was one of many tributes paid by the Red Sox to those affected by the Marathon bombings in the months following the attacks, as the team became closely associated with the city’s healing process. This connection can be seen in the incorporation of Red Sox themes into memorials throughout the city.


"Rosie the Therapy Beagle" at the Temporary Memorial on Boylston Street. 

"Rosie the Therapy Beagle" at the Temporary Memorial on Boylston Street. 


Suffolk Downs shared a photo of the winning jockey’s silks from their July 22, 2013 race. 

Did you capture a photo, tweet, or facebook post of a local business showing support for Boston? Share it here. 

Suffolk Downs shared a photo of the winning jockey’s silks from their July 22, 2013 race. 

Did you capture a photo, tweet, or facebook post of a local business showing support for Boston? Share it here

Our Marathon launched the “One Boston” Neatline exhibit last week. To give some more insight into the process, Nate Rehm-Daly wrote a brief post on his experience. Nate is an undergraduate student at Haverford College pursuing degrees in fine arts and classical studies. He is working on Our Marathon this summer via a Tri-Co DH Summer Internship.

The 'One Boston' Neatline exhibit is an attempt to examine some of the messages left by sympathizers in the aftermath of the bombing. Using Neatline, I mapped one of the posters left in Copley Square, looking for trends among the messages. Neatline allows the curator to create an interactive exhibit from an image. One of Neatline’s primary features is the ability to create polygons which overlay specific parts of the image. When clicked on, the polygons bring up a popover, which can be used to deliver content to the viewer. For this project, I grouped similar messages together using polygons of the same color; hovering over one message in a given category makes all the polygons for similar messages appear, highlighting the scope of the category as a whole. Some of these categories include: references to ‘Boston Strong’, international messages, messages from U.S. communities, biblical quotes, and others. The on click popover I mentioned gives some information about the category and also provides links to related content within the Our Marathon archive. In this sense, the Neatline exhibit serves as a portal to additional content.

Neatline is a great tool for creating digital exhibits. I think one of Neatline’s best features is its built in zoom, which is especially relevant to this exhibit, since it allows the viewer to examine the poster as if it were right in front of them. Neatline’s greatest feature, however, is its ability to integrate images with content. A lot of information can be lost if an image isn’t displayed properly, especially with a content-rich image like this poster. Aside from reading the curated content we’ve provided for this exhibit, the viewer can also easily examine the details on their own. Neatline creates a space which grants the user a good degree of control, but still gives the curator the ability to deliver important content.


"Good vibes on Newbury #PrayForBoston" from Our Marathon's public submissions. 

"Good vibes on Newbury #PrayForBoston" from Our Marathon's public submissions

At the start of the summer, one of my goals was to create lesson plans that served as pathways into our collections. With over 9,000 digital items (and counting), it seemed like an important step for the Our Marathon Digital Archive to take in order to support educators interested in using primary source materials in the classroom. In keeping with the mission of the archive, I wanted to develop lesson plans that would encourage understanding and strengthening of communities. The archive provides a great opportunity to teach students about local history, national experiences, global outreach and responses, and means of communicating sympathy and support. It allows the student to explore photos, poems, letters, text messages, social media posts, as well as oral histories and publically submitted individual stories. In all, there are 5 plans: high school (9-12), middle school (6-8), late elementary (4-5), early elementary (1-3), and kindergarten. 

In developing the lesson plans, I started by reviewing examples of other lesson plans that utilize items like Our Marathon’s collections. I developed a clear idea of what I would need to include in a lesson plan and then I launched into a survey of our bigger collections to find versatile and thought provoking items. For example, I selected a number of letters from around the world and across the United States from the Letters to the City of Boston Collection for the Elementary school plans. The High School plan was the first guide I completed, focusing on the WBUR Oral History Project. I wanted to introduce students to these interviews because oral histories demonstrate what is often lost on the pages of a textbook, the humanity behind human history and emphasizes the active side of history.

After completing the High School guide, I felt more confident in my ability to organize a plan and communicate a suggested manner to execute it in the classroom. The hardest part turned out to be selecting Common Core standards! I think I spent the most time trying to choose the right standards. I think that selecting appropriate High School Common Core standards was incredibly difficult. It is no longer about learning mechanics, as the standards require for elementary and middle school students. It is demonstrating mastery. I am not a teacher but I have been fortunate enough to have wonderful teachers in my academic life and keeping my favorite classroom activities in mind, I consider the outcomes I had been responsible for as a student and applied them to the guide. Ultimately, my approach to these guides was to develop a template for teachers. I considered the results to be suggestions rather than permanent plans that needed to be followed letter by letter.

As always, here is my call to action: teachers and students check out our plans! Tell us what you like and what could use some revising. Teachers, take these plans and make them your own. Share how you have integrated our items into your classroom. Our Marathon is committed to a dialogue on these plans to help you navigate the archive in a way that empowers you to take this important moment into the classroom in unique and meaningful ways. Students, share your projects and search the archive! Our Marathon hosts thousands of items that might suit your interests better than the suggested items on the plans. Bring them to your teachers and a start a conversation about how to utilize them.

As a closing note, this is a crowd-sourced archive so in the truest sense it is the people’s archive. It belongs to you. Use it as a way to understand yourselves, your communities, and to consider the complexities of the human experience that shape a world where events like the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings occur. 

Stay tuned! Our Marathon will announce when all of the lesson plans are available for download from the archive!

(Source: marathon.neu.edu)


"Boston You Are In Our Hearts" from the Phillips Exeter Academy Students, Faculty, & Staff. 

You can view more items from the Copley Square Memorial collection here.

"Boston You Are In Our Hearts" from the Phillips Exeter Academy Students, Faculty, & Staff. 

You can view more items from the Copley Square Memorial collection here.


"Our Roots Are Strong, We Are With You” poster designed by One Gig Clothing.

Did you visit the Copley Square Memorial? Share your reflections here. 

"Our Roots Are Strong, We Are With You” poster designed by One Gig Clothing.

Did you visit the Copley Square Memorial? Share your reflections here


This Boston Strong doily crocheted from yarn is a unique and beautiful item from the Temporary Memorial on Boylston Street that was later moved to Copley Square or rehoused at the Boston City Archives.

Did you create, design, knit or crochet, or write something to honor those affected by the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings? Share it here. 

This Boston Strong doily crocheted from yarn is a unique and beautiful item from the Temporary Memorial on Boylston Street that was later moved to Copley Square or rehoused at the Boston City Archives.

Did you create, design, knit or crochet, or write something to honor those affected by the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings? Share it here

A Request: Our Marathon Social Media Translation / Outreach Help (Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr)

TL; DR version: Help the Our Marathon team with translation / outreach in languages besides English. Details here.

Hi! Our Marathon Project Co-Director Jim McGrath here again. Alicia Peaker and I recently presented a poster on Our Marathon at DH 2014 in Lausanne, Switzerland. One of the highlights of the conference was the “I whisper” initiative run by Global Outlook :DH and the ADHO’s Multilingual / Multiculturalism Committee. “I whisper” invited conference participants to wear pins that advertised the different languages they spoke, enabling attendees to seek out translation help during conference sessions. Élika Ortega (who is awesome / was one of the “I Whisper” organizers) wrote about the “I Whisper” initiative here.

The campaign left me thinking about what steps a project like Our Marathon could take to encourage more contributions in languages other than English. Our Marathon motto is “No Story Is Too Small”: we think that sharing stories can have many benefits for the storytellers and their audiences, and we’re also interested in documenting and preserving the historical record and cultural memory of this moment in Boston’s history. The request below is long overdue, and I’d like to that GO:DH and the ADHO for reminding me of its importance.

There are many different kinds of languages spoken by Boston’s residents, students, and tourists, as well as everyone outside the city who was affected by these events. We’d like to have as many of these voices in our digital archive as possible.

I’d like to solicit your help in our outreach efforts. One small step that might help is asking people to share their stories on Twitter, one of the platforms we use for online outreach. Below are two drafts of general calls for submissions in English:

Where were you during the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings? Share your story with our digital archive: northeastern.edu/marathon

What does “Boston Strong” mean to you? Share your story with us: northeastern.edu/marathon

If you have the time to translate one or both of these messages, please do so at this link (Google Doc). Please also highlight the language. Feel free to include additional tweet ideas (as long as they’re within Twitter’s character limits) and any additional comments you might have.

Additionally, we’d obviously love it if people shared their own stories (or photos, social media usage, videos, etc.). Here’s a direct link to our “Share Your Story” page.

Finally, we’d be happy to have writers compose messages for our Facebook page or posts for our very active blog. Feel free to leave your thoughts below, or you can directly contact me via marathon@neu.edu or my student e-mail address, mcgrath.ja@husky.neu.edu. We’d also love to hear comments on other parts of the archive.

Again, the Google Doc where you can post translations and other content is here.

Thanks!