Creating, Documenting and Using Archives of Spontaneous Memorials: Building an International Network

International Workshop 20-21 September 2018 Manchester Art Gallery


“Spontaneous memorials” (also termed “spontaneous shrines”, “temporary memorials”, “grassroots memorials”, or “makeshift memorials”) are, Santino notes, “silent witnesses [….] a primary way to mount those who died a sudden or shocking death, and to acknowledge the circumstances of the deaths” (Santino 2006, 5, 12). Such memorials have been the context or object of different disciplinary and interdisciplinary investigations, such as: spontaneous memorials as spaces of cultural negotiation of public grief (Doss 2008; Eyre 2006; Senie 2006); their commemorative and performative roles (Santino 2016); rituals of gift-giving and the material culture of mourning (Hallam and Hockey, 2001); spaces of social action (Margry and Sanchez-Carretero 2011), or political protest and death rituals (Marchi 2006); examples of mass mediation of disaster and tragic death (Dayan and Katz 1994); and in the context of a sociology of terrorist attacks (Truc 2018).

However, spontaneous memorials raise also questions about the cultural professional practices, agents, outputs and impact of creating, documenting, managing and using their archives (see e.g. Maynor 2015; Milošević 2018; Morin 2015; Purcell 2012; Rivard 2012; Schwartz 2012; Whitton 2016). An examination of the impact that spontaneous memorials have on local museums, libraries, archives or related cultural organisations tasked with their documentation, archiving and long-term use is significant, because of the value and roles that these memorials (and their archive) have in constructing personal and collective memories of tragic events and the impact they have in challenging established archiving and museological methods and timeframes. In the case of spontaneous memorials, cultural organisations are faced with challenges such as rapid documentation and contemporary collecting, which most often fall outside their usual acquisition, collecting and management frameworks. In this context, what is collected, documented and archived (or not), when and how often, by whom and what/who for, are questions that need to be addressed, in order to reveal the agency, pre-conceptions and comprehensiveness in the formation and use of a spontaneous memorial’s archive. Also, the frequency of spontaneous memorials over recent years makes such an examination all the more important and timely.

Accordingly, this 2-day international workshop, which is funded by the British Academy, will bring together practitioners, researchers and organisations involved in archiving and studying recent and past spontaneous memorials. It will be an opportunity to share experiences and discuss conceptual, practical and ethical challenges in archiving spontaneous memorials, including: the preparedness of city and cultural authorities to respond to the speed, timeframe and public expectations of these memorials; issues of public participation and co-production; the expansion of the spontaneous memorialisation on digital and social media; how archiving decisions affect the construction and evolution of the memory of the relevant events; and the use of the resulted archive in the context of health and wellbeing of people affected psychologically and/or physically by the events. Workshop participants will also identify practical and methodological challenges, plan for a long-term programme of activity and discuss possible funding routes to support this work.

The intended outcome is the formation of a community of practice and international network on creating, documenting and using archives of spontaneous memorials.

Workshop Schedule (download the workshop’s programme [PDF])

Thursday 20th September 2018

09.15 Registration and Tea/Coffee
09.50 Welcome (Alistair Hudson, Manchester Art Gallery Director)
10.00 Introduction (Kostas Arvanitis, University of Manchester)
10.20 Paris (Mathilde Pintault, Archives de Paris and Gérôme TrucISP – CNRS Paris)
10.40 Nice (Marion Duvigneau, Service des Archives Nice Côte d’Azur)
11.00 Discussion
11.20 Break
11.50 Brussels (Frédéric Boquet, Archives of the City of Brussels and 
Marie Van Eeckenrode, States Archives in Belguim / Université de Louvain)
12.10 Overview of Belgian and French archives of spontaneous/grassroots memorials (Maëlle Bazin, University Paris 2 Panthéon-Assas (CARISM) and Marie Van Eeckenrode, States Archives in Belguim / Université de Louvain)
12.30 Discussion
13.00 Lunch
14.00 Stockholm (Elisabeth Boogh, Stockholm County Museum, Kajsa Hartig, The Nordic Museum, Johanna Karlsson, City Museum of Stockholm and
Hans Öjmyr, Stockholm City Museum)
14.20 Barcelona (Josep Bracons, Barcelona History Museum, MHUBA, 
Daniel Alcubierre Gómez, Barcelona History Museum, MHUBA and
Lídia Font Pagès, Barcelona History Museum, MHUBA)
14.40 Shoreham (Wendy Walker, West Sussex Record Office)
15.00 Discussion
15.30 Break
15.50 Manchester (Kostas Arvanitis, University of Manchester; Larysa Bolton, Archives+ and Amanda Wallace, Manchester Art Gallery)
16.10 “Manchester Together” Archive Visit
17.15 End

Friday 21st September 2018

09.00 Tea/Coffee (use the Gallery’s entrance on Princess Street)
09.30 Collecting, Retention, Conservation and Disposal
10.30 Public Archives and Publics of Archives
Digital Archives
11.15 Break
11.30 Impact on cultural organisation(s) and authorities
Psychosocial perspectives of spontaneous memorials’ archives
12.15 Spontaneous and Permanent Memorialisation
Research and interpretation of spontaneous memorials’ archives
Future(s) of the archives  
13.00 Lunch
13.45 Aims and Activities of the Network
15.00 Next Steps
15.30 End

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