The Bowdoin experience can now be inscribed onto a digital space, dedicated to documenting memories and celebrating Bowdoin’s unique community. Created by Max Freeman ’22 and Camilo Pareja ’22, Bowdoin Moments is an online platform where anyone with Bowdoin memories—whether they be students, faculty, staff members, alumni and visitors—is invited to share their stories in geospatial tags accompanied with a few sentences of reflections.
“Sitting in Thorne on Sunday mornings and being filled with the noise and energy of the people makes me feel like part of something bigger than myself,” reads one pin at Thorne Hall.
“My first week at Bowdoin, I was trying to find the start of the line when a local turned to me and said, ‘there is no line,’” reads a pin at Gelato Fiasco.
The interactive, map-based website allows users to annotate specific locations all over the Bowdoin and Brunswick area. The project is anonymous, but students and alumni are given the option to share their class years.
Freeman and Pareja envisioned Bowdoin Moments as a go-to online space for individuals to share their moments.
“The ultimate goal for Bowdoin Moments is for it to be something that is a part of how people express their experience of Bowdoin for a long time to come,” said Freeman in a Zoom interview with the Orient.
The two were inspired by a similar geospatial project at Columbia University, where students were given the platform to share the locations where they cried, as well as another project that created a queer space to share stories of coming out. Bowdoin Moments aims to capture the emotional resonances of Bowdoin by asking its users to input any experience they wish to share.
“When [we] saw that, [Pareja] and I decided we wanted to make something similar for Bowdoin, but something that was broader and tried to encapsulate a larger segment of the experience of being a Bowdoin student,” said Freeman.
For Pareja, a computer science major who coded the website and integrated data from OpenStreetMap, the project is an exciting undertaking that reminded him of the Portland project created by Assistant Professor of Sociology Theo Greene.
“[Freeman] approached me with the original idea about the website on stories about crying on campus, and so he asked me if I’d be interested in helping them implement this website,” said Pareja in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “It really excited me to create a version of [the Columbia project] for Bowdoin.”
Recalling the process of putting together the website, Freeman said that the two ruminated on how to frame the idea of “moments,” as well as how the pandemic contributed to the community’s collective need for a reservoir of intimate emotions stemming from the profound impact of the Bowdoin experience.
“The pandemic really framed the construction of this website. Camilo coded it during the pandemic, and I was working on the map behind the website during this time,” said Freeman. “We realized this has the added potential of preserving memories that otherwise might be lost in the pandemic, memories of what Bowdoin was before the pandemic, for our students who come after.”
The open format and anonymous nature of the website are part of the partners’ plan to give creative freedom to the website’s contributors.
“The diversity of approaches people take in adding their moments is what will create a more beautiful picture of what Bowdoin is,” said Freeman.
Looking ahead, the duo said that they are working to maintain the space as an inclusive and safe platform for all members of the community and that contributions to the website must conform to the College’s Social Code. But for now, Freeman and Pareja have been pleased to see contributions from alumni, and they hope Bowdoin Moments can be a resource for all.
“I already know that current students and alumni have been using, contributing and enjoying this website, and I certainly think that this could be a resource to admitted students or prospective students if they find that it tells them something about Bowdoin they otherwise wouldn’t have found,” said Freeman.
“It is a great startup, like a living autobiography … By bringing in alumni, we’re capturing moments that couldn’t be shared before,” added Pareja. “I really hope students on campus and also the wider Bowdoin community will take ownership of the website and make it into what they would want to see it grow into.”