Psychological Impact of Spontaneous Memorials: A Narrative Review

Kostas Arvanitis, Hannah Collins, Kate Allsopp, Prathiba Chitsabesan, Paul French

Research output: Contribution to journalLiterature reviewpeer-review

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Objective: The creation of spontaneous memorials has become an increasingly common response following a traumatic event, such as the Manchester Arena attack, the 2016 Paris attacks, and September 11, 2001, in New York. In many cases, spontaneous memorials are collected and archived. This article is the 1st to date to review the research literature on the potential psychological and therapeutic impact of such archives.
Method: This study presents a literature review of 35 articles (including empirical research, discussion papers and gray literature) that explore the psychological functions of spontaneous memorials and why they may have been created.
Results: Research has indicated that therapeutic impact is 1 of the main intended or assumed outcomes of such memorials and archives when it comes to those directly affected and the broader public. However, it has also been suggested that working with these materials can have a detrimental psychological impact on cultural professionals such as archivists, and research has recommended that mental health support should be in place for those working with the materials. This review indicates that there is limited research within this area and demonstrates a clear need to explore the impact of spontaneous memorials and their archives further, including avenues of support that may be helpful for professionals.
Conclusion: Because spontaneous memorials are becom- ing an ever-increasing phenomenon, it is important to address this evidence gap to help guide cultural, health care, and other professionals in how best to present and potentially use these archives therapeu- tically in the future.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy
Early online date19 Mar 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • spontaneous memorials
  • Trauma
  • Memorials
  • museums


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