Introducing the Boston Research Center’s Projects

The Boston Research Center is excited to announce the first set of project prototypes in development, summer 2018. These projects build on the existing expertise and strengths of Northeastern faculty, staff, and graduate student research, presenting a broad array of data types and design challenges. The BRC has been working with project groups to identify innovative ways to support exploration and research across different types of disciplines, time periods, and neighborhoods. As these prototypes develop, several project-wide themes have emerged that inform the design of individual projects as well as the tools—including technical infrastructures, data analysis, and information visualization—that are needed to support the broader research goals of the BRC. Extended project descriptions can be viewed under the Projects menu above. For more information about the BRC mission and planning process, see here.

Pedagogy and Research Uses

Many of the BRC’s prototypes build on projects developed by Northeastern faculty for use in the classroom or as part of larger research projects. Mission Hill 100—in collaboration with the Scope, a digital magazine focused on stories of justice and resilience in Boston—was developed as part of an undergraduate Journalism course to help students hone their skills in digital reporting and research. Other projects, such as the Birth of Boston and the Early Black Boston Digital Almanac grew out of Northeastern faculty teaching and research working to address gaps in historical narratives and to link historical, geographic, and biographical data. These projects showcase how faculty-driven research and pedagogical practices in turn support the BRC’s goals by exploring new tools for data visualization and interpretation, particularly across datasets which vary over time. This investment in creative forms of historical research and data analysis also supports undergraduate and graduate work in these areas, creating further opportunities for engagement with BRC research tools and datasets.

Data Narratives and Visual Storytelling

A number of the project prototypes also work to connect different types of research materials, including historical maps, archival collections, and census data. A central goal of the BRC is to develop tools and guidelines for bringing historical datasets into conversation, developing innovative ways of representing changes in how historical data is tracked over time. The NuLawLab is focusing on developing an interactive, annotated case law page, connecting the static text of the case to significant sites, events, and contextual information from materials held at the Northeastern Archives and in other online repositories. The Diversity Explorer project will utilize data visualization tools to represent specific measures of diversity, such as country of birth and language(s) spoken, at the household level. The Early Black Boston Digital Almanac will also develop digital exhibits based on historical datasets and visual narratives. These projects represent the beginning of the visual storytelling potential of BRC projects and will encourage new ways of using and teaching with data sources from other institutions.

Community Engaged Research

Ethical community engagement is central to the BRC. Informed by the Digital Scholarship Group’s Design for Diversity (D4D) teaching and learning toolkit, the Community Engaged Research strand will work with community partners and Northeastern faculty and staff experts to design a set of Best Practices for the BRC. It will also offer suggestions on how the BRC could lead a Northeastern-wide effort to encourage community-informed or community-driven research projects. Additionally, the BRC’s Community Engaged Research strand is also working to build partnerships with other Boston-area cultural heritage institutions, including archives, historical societies, and museums, encouraging these organizations to work together to build a network of support.  

As the BRC projects develop over the coming months, we will be highlighting the work of researchers through blog posts and regular updates on this site.