Following a Map of 'Bowdoin Moments'

By Rebecca Goldfine

A violinist from the Class of 2019 remembers the electricity of playing with the orchestra on the Studzinksi stage. Another student recalls nursing a broken heart under the trees next to Moulton Union. A current senior describes sitting in the sun with friends on the Brunswick Apartments quad.

A screenshot of Bowdoin Moments.
A screenshot of Bowdoin Moments.

These recollections and many others—wistful, grateful, and even a few hard-knock ones—have been shared on a new interactive website created by Max Freeman ’22 and Camilo Pareja ’22 called Bowdoin Moments.

With Bowdoin Moments, Freeman and Pareja are inviting anyone—students, faculty, alumni, staff, community members, and visitors—with a memory about Bowdoin to drop a pin where it happened and share their story. All users remain anonymous, but student contributors can choose whether to include their class year.

"The goal is to create a representation of Bowdoin through the crowdsourcing of these moments on the map," Freeman said. As Bowdoin Moments grows, it will take on the character of "an authorless story," he added. 

@Third Floor Massachusetts Hall "I’ve questioned my deepest beliefs in this room so many times...I wouldn’t have it any other way, or anywhere else. ’22"

Camilo Pareja and Max Freeman
Camilo Pareja and Max Freeman

Freeman partnered with Pareja this summer to design and build Bowdoin Moments. Pareja is a computer science and sociology major, and Freeman is majoring in English and minoring in government and legal studies. Freeman has also pursued independent research in digital and computational studies, and taken a couple of courses in the department.

While Bowdoin Moments draws some inspiration from a similar crowdsourcing project at Columbia, Crying@CU, Freeman and Pareja wanted to expand the parameters for the content people could share. They ask users to contribute meaningful moments, which can encompass a range of emotions. "What happened?" they prompt on the site. "Why here? How did you feel? Why was this moment special?" 

@Vac 303 "Completely entranced by Professor Henry's lecture on the Russian Coup of 1991...Chills, and my mouth was probably wide open. Swan Lake played on state TV on a continuous loop as Gorbachev's opponents tried to overthrow the government (!!!) ’19"

Freeman and Pareja are also encouraging those with very recent and very old memories to add to the map. As the age range of people who drop pins widens, they anticipate seeing the nature of memories attached to specific buildings or campus locations change.

"It is amazing to see how a single space is used in a variety of ways," Freeman said. "One of the hopes that Camilo and I have is that as pins build up, we might be able to see interesting patterns in how spaces have changed in their function over time, or how the stories that come out of the spaces have changed."  

@in baseball field "I wish I could relive my baseball days."

The fact that Bowdoin Moments was created during COVID-19 will also shape the stories, they believe. "It provides a place for current students to record what life is like during the pandemic," Freeman said. 

Pareja noted that the pandemic has fundamentally changed how students socialize, and that the required social distancing has increased the demand for safe online platforms where people can share and connect with one another.

"With Bowdoin Moments, I hope to offer such a space in the context of our campus," he said. "I want community members to feel comfortable sharing their memories while also feeling like they've gotten something intentional out of the experience." 

@HL 1st Floor "Truly my best and worst moments have happened in this building: Studying with my crush on the first floor...and getting my first D on a paper. High highs and low lows, folks. ’22." 

And for those students—particularly first-years—who don't know what it was like at Bowdoin before the virus changed day-to-day life, they can read people's stories to get a sense of a different time. 

"First-year students will be able to learn what campus used to be like while sharing the stories of what they made it into," Pareja said. "And while there may be other ways for sharing such knowledge, Bowdoin Moments offers a unique opportunity to visually link personal lived experiences with spaces at Bowdoin and beyond." 

"It is important to have memories of what Bowdoin was," Freeman added, "so these memories can inspire new forms of Bowdoin in the future."

@Maine 2nd "I had not gone more than an hour without crying all day. I sat on the ground as she French braided my hair. As she massaged my head and wove new pieces of hair into my braid, I felt okay again, if only for a few minutes."