The Ethics of Response-ability in Collecting Spontaneous Memorials

Kostas Arvanitis, Larysa Bolton, Jenny Marsden, Eleanor McKenzie, Amanda Wallace

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter examines how museum, library and archive professionals perceive their role and frame their actions when caring for spontaneous memorials. It draws on notions and applications of ethics of care, response-ability, and sympathy to discuss the considerations and decision-making in collecting, documenting and managing the spontaneous memorials that appeared in Manchester after the Arena bombing (22nd May 2017). The chapter argues that demonstrating an ethics of response-ability shifts the emphasis of the museum and archival practices around spontaneous memorials from caring for the memorial material to caring for the people most affected by the attack. Also, it helps acknowledge the limitations of cultural professionals’ previous experience and open up the processes of understanding the meanings, significance and value of collections of spontaneous memorials. Reversely, acting on response-ability increases the risk of secondary and vicarious trauma for cultural professionals, audiences and users.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEthics of Contemporary Collecting
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 10 Feb 2024


  • ethics of care
  • collecting
  • spontaneous memorials
  • Manchester Arena bombing

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Creative Manchester


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