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Collecting and Managing Spontaneous Memorials

14 December 2023 @ 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm

The seminar will discuss policies and practices that can help museums and related cultural organisations understand and address the challenges involved in collecting, documenting and engaging the public with collections of spontaneous memorials.

Due to their composition, unplanned nature and location (usually in public/private spaces) spontaneous memorials are temporary and in many cases are collected by museums (or related cultural/heritage organisations). This transition, from a spontaneous memorial to a museum, can be seen as contrary to the intended ephemerality of the original memorial, which therefore raises issues about museums’ professional practices. This is particularly important as the necessary rapidity of this work falls outside museums’ usual acquisition, documentation and management frameworks. In this context, what is collected and documented (or not), when, by whom and what/who for, are questions that need to be addressed, in order to reveal the agency in the formation and life of a spontaneous memorial’s collection, how it interfaces with institutional identities and existing museum practices, and how it impacts on people’s memory of the events. Accordingly, the workshop will address the following questions:

  1. What conceptual, practical, and ethical challenges and issues do the formation, collection, and curation of spontaneous memorials present to museums and other cultural and heritage organisations involved?
  2. How can museum professionals and organisations involved in curating such collections of trauma be supported to mitigate vicarious and secondary trauma?
  3. How can this work shape the development of relevant policies, practices and resources for museum professionals dealing with collections of trauma?

Image: A view of the spontaneous memorial in St Ann’s Square in Manchester, following the May 2017 Manchester Attack. Copyright: Manchester City Council. Used with permission

Read the full report on this seminar by Dr Kostas Arvanitis here


14 December 2023
2:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Event Category:


Manchester Art Gallery
Mosley St
Manchester, M2 3JL United Kingdom
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