nulawlab Project

Boston Desegregation Archive: Annotated Case Law and Digital Reference

Project Description: 
This collaboration models an approach that links archival materials, datasets, and narratives by augmenting textual data with location information and archival materials, including Boston Globe photographic archives. Working with a landmark desegregation case, this project will enable the Boston Research Center (BRC) to explore ways of situating important textual documents both historically and culturally. The project prototype can also function as an instructional tool for law students, highlighting the interconnections between social and legal histories. Additionally, this project will also bring to life the case at the center of ongoing conversations in Boston surrounding school busing and racial equity in public education. This BRC prototype will focus on the landmark 1974 case Morgan V. Hennigan that initiated redistricting and busing policies that greatly shaped the city of Boston. The project team will:

  • identify and categorize a range of archival materials related to the case, including those digitized by Northeastern and by other institutional archives; 
  • annotate the text of Morgan v Hennigan with links to these archival materials and brief explanations of their relevance for the persons, places, institutions, texts, events, and other entities in the document;  
  • develop interfaces to connect case material with geotagged data and mapping through which citizens and scholars can contribute to and engage with the urban spaces of Boston.

While the prototype’s annotations will be hand-curated, they will allow the BRC team to explore the potential of automatic or partially-automatic archival annotation, based on items’ metadata. For example, annotations could link to all of the photographs or archival texts whose descriptions or subject categories include the names of entities in a document.The NuLawLab team will also use the process of developing this prototype to consider possibilities for more robust and complex textual annotation and archival exploration systems and for allowing readers to collect and annotate their own sets of archival materials. 

Project Team:
Dan Jackson—Executive Director, NuLawLab
Jules Rochielle Sievert—Creative Director, NuLawLab
Margot de Costerd—Research Intern, NuLawLab

Photo of students outside of Charlestown High School. Courtesy of Northeastern University Archives.