Archiving Tragedy, Promoting Healing

On April 16, 2007, just a few short weeks ago, Virginia Tech experienced a tragedy that made headlines across the world as the worst shooting in U.S. history. The initial shock and horror of the event has now given way to reflection and thoughts of memorials. This past Monday the Center for Digital Discourse and Culture (CDDC) at Virginia Tech announced the launch of the April 16 Archive, a digital repository created with support from George Mason University’s Center for History and New Media (CHNM). The aim of the archive is to collect first-hand accounts, images, sound bites, and more to assist “artists, humanists, social scientists, and all other scholars who seek, today and in the future, to develop a better understanding of the violent events of April 16, 2007 at Virginia Tech.” But the site’s creators also hope to “leave a positive legacy for the larger community and contribute to a collective process of healing, especially as those affected by this tragedy tell their stories in their own words.” The archive accepts submissions online from all those who wish to share, and the entries that have been collected so far are fascinating: images of support from the University of Virginia (Tech’s rival school), screenshots from a memorial created on Second Life (an online virtual world), and Nikki Giovanni’s convocation address, to name a few.

The Center for History and New Media has been involved in the creation of similar archival sites, including The September 11 Digital Archive, and the Hurricane Digital Memory Bank, which was featured on the AHA Today last month.

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