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‘Home under siege’

More than a dozen students in an advanced writing service-learning course have each curated two exhibits for the Our Marathon digital archive, a web-based, crowd-sourced collection of pictures, videos, and oral histories in memory of the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings.

They presented their work last Thursday at the Forum Restaurant, which was heavily damaged by one of two bombs that exploded near the Boylston Street finish line.

“One of the reasons I wanted to do this off campus is so it aligned with the work we have been doing with a space in the community,” said English instructor Victoria Papa, who led the course. “In the spirit of resiliency and hope that is Our Marathon, our course, and Forum, here we are bringing our work into the community.”

Northeastern’s NULab for Maps, Texts, and Networks created Our Marathon: The Boston Bombing Digital Archive, which has catalogued more than 3,000 stories of those affected by the tragic events of April 15 and the days that followed.

One of the two exhibits each student curated will be available for public viewing, while the other will be available only to academic researchers. All of them explored issues ranging from vicarious trauma and terrorism to the media and the economy.

Potoula Tournas SSH’15, left the area near the finish line about half an hour before the bombs went off. Unfortunately, her friend and fellow Northeastern student Victoria McGrath was significantly injured in the attack. For her academic exhibit, Tournas interviewed McGrath and created an oral history about her friend and her experience.

“I knew I wanted to somehow incorporate her inspiring and empowering story into one of my exhibits,” Tournas said. “And she agreed to share her story because she wanted to give back to Northeastern for everything the university has done for her.”

Several students who presented were not in Boston when the attacks occurred because they were on co-op or studying abroad. Their exhibits drew on the experience of learning about the bombings from a distance.

Ellie Buckhout, for example, SSH’15, was on co-op in Northern Ireland at the time of the attack, some 3,000 miles from Boston. Her public exhibit—“Students overseas, Home under siege”—was influenced by news of the bombings’ aftermath on the front page of the Belfast Telegraph.

Over the last months, she asked other Northeastern students who were out of the country during the bombings to submit a particularly memorable image of the attack, one they saw relating to that fateful day. Then she juxtaposed that image and the students’ story with a photo of the student on campus.

“It was interesting to represent what was going on through people’s minds while it was happening, and how they feel now that they are back on campus,” Buckhout explained.

Trevor Estes, SSH’14, explored the idea of commemoration, with particular emphasis on the decision by some to get tattoos in remembrance of the attack. He scoured Instagram and Twitter to find tattoo images and people’s individual stories behind them.

“I found this interesting because it is symbolic,” Estes explained.