IMG_3997aThe Institute for Cultural Practices, University of Manchester, in collaboration with Manchester Art Gallery, Archives+ and Belle Vue Productions is leading on a programme of research related to the spontaneous memorials of the Manchester Arena attack.

This research includes:

Collecting, documenting and engaging people with the 2017 Manchester attack’s spontaneous memorials

This strand of work investigates the processes, agents and outputs of creating, documenting and engaging people with a collection of Manchester Arena’s spontaneous memorials. It includes the development of relevant policy and practice guidance for cultural professionals and organisations.

The University of Manchester has been working with Manchester Art Gallery and Archives+ in developing a collecting policy and documentation and access plan for the archive.

Between November 2017 and May 2018, postgraduate students from the Art Galleries and Museums studies MA programme at the University of Manchester took a pilot documentation of a sample of the  Manchester Together Archive. Lessons learnt from the pilot were applied to the full documentation of the collection.

“We’ve worked side by side with the Institute for Cultural Practices, documenting the process of creating this archive, recording the decision making process and how our own feelings and understanding of these objects has evolved over time. We wanted to make sure that this process was very open and that we are able to learn from this and to share that process with other people that are facing similar issues in the future.”

– Amanda Wallace, Deputy Director, Manchester Art Gallery

Understanding the psychological impact of collections of trauma


This strand of work has three aims: First, it addresses the link between spontaneous memorial collections and their psychological impact on people affected directly by the events (e.g. survivors and the bereaved families) and on wider audiences. Second, it examines the emotional impact of the process of managing spontaneous memorials on museum professionals (including vicarious and secondary trauma). Third, it explores the role and use of spontaneous memorials and their collection in post-attack personal and community recovery.

Digitisation of Spontaneous Memorials

Postgraduate students from the University of Manchester undertook a pilot documentation of objects in the Manchester Together Archive. Image courtesy of the University of Manchester.

This strand of work explores the practices, use and impact of digitised and born-digital collections of spontaneous memorials. This includes an examination into the interaction between the physical and digital archives of spontaneous memorials in shaping people’s memories of the events. Drawing on theories of digital materiality, it also considers whether digitised or born-digital memorials function as an extension and embodiment of the physical memorials, and whether any therapeutic benefits of memorials migrate to their digital counterparts as well.

Spontaneous memorialisation as an act of community resilience and social solidarity


Robert Simpson is currently completing a collaborative PhD with Manchester Art Gallery (funded by the Advanced Humanities Research Council). The PhD examines notions of social solidarity and community resilience following public atrocities, and how communities tackle grief and trauma through acts of memorialisation.

Building an international network of collections of spontaneous memorials

image of objects in the spontaneous memorials in Barcelona after the 17th August 2017 terrorist attack
Spontaneous memorial in Barcelona after the 17th August 2017 terrorist attack

The Network of Archives of Spontaneous Memorials brings together individuals and organisations involved in creating, documenting and using collections and archives of spontaneous memorials. It currently includes members related to seven cases of spontaneous memorials that appeared after terrorist attacks or disasters: Barcelona 2017, Brussels 2016, Manchester 2017, Nice 2016, Paris 2015, Shoreham 2015 and Stockholm 2017. It, also, includes representatives of related cultural and archival organisations.

“Questions explored in this research include: the preparedness of city and cultural authorities to respond to the speed, timeframe and public expectations of spontaneous 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.”

– Dr. Kostas Arvanitis, Institute for Cultural Practices, University of Manchester

Manchester Bee Tattoos

This project aims to document the mass tattooing of the Manchester bee, following the terrorist attack at Manchester Arena. It is a collaboration between the University of Manchester, Belle Vue Productions, photographer Emma Freeman and curator and oral historian Jen Kavanagh.



  • Forthcoming: Arvanitis, K. 2025. Museums and Spontaneous Memorials. A Museology of Trauma. London: Routledge. 

Book Chapters

  • In press: Arvanitis, K., Bolton, L. Marsden, J., McKenzie, E. and Wallace, A. 2024. “The Ethics of Response-ability in Collecting Spontaneous Memorials” in Cordner, S., Kavanagh, J., Miles, E. and West, R.L. (eds). Ethics of Contemporary Collecting. London: Routledge, pp. (tbc).
  • In press: Arvanitis, K. 2024. “Ethics of Care in Collecting Spontaneous Memorials” in Bounia, A. and Witcomb, A. (Eds) The Ethics of Collecting Trauma: The role of museums in collecting and displaying contemporary crises. London: Routledge, pp. (tbc).
  • In press: Arvanitis, K. and Simpson, R. 2024. “Making, Sharing and Extending Presence of Spontaneous Memorials in the Aftermath of the Manchester Arena bombing” in Karcher, K., Dimcheva, Y. and Medina, M. (eds). Remembering, Forgetting and Anticipating Urban Terrorism in Europe since 2004. London: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. (tbc).

Academic Journal Articles

  • Collins, H., Allsopp K., Arvanitis, K., Chitsabesan, P., and French P. 2020. ‘Psychological impact of spontaneous memorials: A narrative review’, Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, Online First Publication, March 19, 2020.
  • Arvanitis, K. 2019. “The ‘Manchester Together Archive’: researching and developing a museum practice of spontaneous memorials”, Museum and Society, 17(3), 510-532. 


  • *Arvanitis, K., Everest, S., Hardman, A., and Knowles, B. 2018. 4 Manchester Together Archive Films: ‘10,000 Objects’, ‘2,000 teddies’, ‘Jo and Freda’s story’ and ‘22 Candles’:  , 25 July. 

Professional Articles, Reports and Guides

For more information about any aspect of the Manchester Together Archive’s research programme, please contact:

Dr Kostas Arvanitis
Senior Lecturer in Museology
Institute for Cultural Practices, University of Manchester