Ethics of Care in Collecting Spontaneous Memorials

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter examines the ethical parameters of the decision-making involved in forming and managing collections of spontaneous memorials. It draws on an ethics of care framework to discuss how museum professionals conceptualise their sense of personal, social and professional responsibility, and consider and respond to the needs of affected communities when they are presented with the task of collecting and documenting spontaneous memorials.

The chapter is based on an analysis of two case studies of spontaneous memorial collections: the Manchester Together Archive, a collection of over 10,000 items collected by the Manchester Art Gallery from the spontaneous memorials in Manchester (UK) after the Arena bombing (22 May 2017) that killed twenty-three people (including the attacker) and injured hundreds of others; and the One Orlando Collection, which consists of more than 12,000 items that the Orange County Regional History Center collected after the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando (USA) (12 June 2016) that left forty-nine people dead and sixty-eight people injured.

The chapter argues that collections of spontaneous memorials are part of the ritual of ‘care-giving’ and should be viewed through the lens of extending the life of the spontaneous memorials, rather than creating a record of them. It suggests that the lack of personal and institutional experience in disaster collecting is often mitigated by a fall back to personal ethics, professional competence and a sense of social responsibility, which in turn produce (and can be explained by) the adoption of an ethics of care approach. Ultimately, the chapter offers some broader conclusions about how ethical issues in managing the formation and use of spontaneous memorials require appropriate institutional policy and practice.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Ethics of Collecting Trauma
Subtitle of host publicationThe role of museums in collecting and displaying contemporary crises
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 15 Oct 2022


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