Curating and Presenting “3-11” Online: Reflections from My Year with Harvard’s Digital Archive of Japan’s 2011 Disasters

Event Type: 
Event Date: 
Monday, March 10, 2014 - 17:00
Hale 230, CU-Boulder

[CAS Speaker Series] This talk will be given by Eric Dinmore, Associate Professor of History at Hampden-Sydney College. He will recount how he assembled and curated online “personal collections” for Harvard’s Digital Archive of Japan’s 2011 Disasters, as well as reflect on the significance of his time with the project while a postdoctoral fellow at the Edwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies from 2011 to 2012.

The Great East Japan Earthquake and associated tsunami and nuclear catastrophes of March 11, 2011 shook Japan and the rest of the world with their human toll, devastating scale, and interlocking complexity.  “3-11” also was unprecedented as a natural and human disaster striking a nation in the forefront of the global economy in a newly digital age. It provoked a global barrage of online blog entries, discussion group postings, Twitter tweets, audio recordings, non-governmental and relief organization communications, photographs, videos, news articles, disaster-related government websites, and other digital documentation. To preserve, organize, and make as much of this record available as possible to scholars and the wider online public, the Reischauer Institute launched the Digital Archive of Japan’s 2011 Disasters project. From its inception in March 2011, the project has indexed and search-tagged thousands of websites and documents, and hundreds of thousands of tweets, photographs, and videos. With the aid of partner organizations inside and outside Japan, it has assured that these catalogued items are stored on servers for future users. 

Much of Dinmore's work on the project involved using experimental interface software to assemble sample “personal collections” drawing from the catalogued digital records. In addition to serving as a repository, the Disasters Archive has strived to become a dynamic, ever-expanding public space. It and similar digital humanities projects are fundamentally social endeavors: not only do many digital records come from public websites, blogs, discussion forums, and social media sites; these items are also being made available to the global online public for perusal, curation, and commentary. Dinmore's task, then, was to present and curate digital narratives of “3-11” to the global online public, as well as to explain how he did it. As someone with no direct experience of the disasters and little previous exposure to the digital humanities, this undertaking revised the way he thought about “collecting” and forced him to grapple with knotty issues of addressing an ongoing tragedy from thousands of miles away. 

The closest metered parking is along University Avenue. Another option is the Euclid Auto Park by the University Memorial Center, which is a little more expensive but does not have a two-hour time limit.

3-11 Online

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