Manchester Together archive

Within hours of the Manchester Arena attack in May 2017 members of the public began to show their respects for the dead and injured by leaving flowers, personal mementos, candles, balloons and written tributes in various locations around the city. These spontaneous memorials grew quickly, with the focus being at St Ann's Square.

Photograph of the tributes in St Ann's Square to the dead and injured following the Manchester Arena attack in May 2017.  Photograph courtesy of Manchester City Council.
Tributes in St Ann's Square to the victims of the Manchester Arena attack in May 2017. Photograph courtesy of Manchester City Council.

On 9 June 2017 different organisations in the city came together to remove the spontaneous memorial objects from locations around Manchester. Flowers were composted and some of this compost was used to plant the 'trees of hope' during the first year anniversary in May 2018; plants were replanted around the city; soft toys were washed and donated to charities to be passed on to children in the UK and abroad; and candles were melted to create 22 new candles which were given to the families of the 22 people who were killed at the attack. 

More than 10,000 items (such as notes, letters, cards, drawings, sculptures, toys, t-shirts) have been kept by Manchester Art Gallery to form the Manchester Together archive, an archive of the public response to the Manchester Arena attack.

In July 2018 the Manchester Together archive project received a £99,700 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The project will document, digitise and make available online more than 10,000 items.  

The project is led by Manchester Art Gallery in partnership with Archives+ and The University of Manchester. 

Watch more research films on the project's website

Research overview 

The Institute for Cultural Practices, in collaboration with the 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.

Documenting, archiving and using Manchester Arena’s spontaneous memorials

The University of Manchester is 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 have undertaken pilot documentation of a sample of the Manchester Together Archive. Lessons learnt from the pilot will be applied to the full documentation of the archive. 

Reflecting on archiving practices of Manchester Arena’s spontaneous memorials 

This strand of work investigates the processes, agents and outputs of creating, documenting and using an archive of Manchester Arena’s spontaneous memorials. It also examines the impact that the management of spontaneous memorials is having on cultural professional and local authority practices and policy-making. 

Building an international network of spontaneous memorials’ archives

This strand of work (funded by the British Academy) aims to develop an international network of people and organisations involved in creating, documenting and using archives of spontaneous memorials. The network will explore conceptual, practical and ethical challenges in archiving spontaneous memorials that appear after violent events. 

Related Event: "Creating, Documenting and Using Archives of Spontaneous Memorials" International Workshop, Manchester Art Gallery, 20-21 September 2018 

Manchester bee tattoos

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

Publications

  • Arvanitis, K. 2019. “The ‘Manchester Together Archive’: researching and developing a museum practice of spontaneous memorials”, Museum and Society, 17(3), 510-532 (Download PDF)
  • Arvanitis, K. 2019. “Collecting, Documenting and Using Spontaneous Memorials: the case of the ‘Manchester Together Archive’” ARC Magazine, August, 361, 11-13
  • 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. 

Prizes

The Manchester Together Archive Team (Amanda Wallace and Jenny Marsden from Manchester Art Gallery; Larysa Bolton from Archives+; and Kostas Arvanitis from University of Manchester) were awarded the "Working Together for Manchester" Award in the "Awards for Excellence 2019" of the Manchester City Council. 

Contact information

Dr Kostas Arvanitis, Senior Lecturer in Museology, University of Manchester.  Email: kostas.arvanitis@manchester.ac.uk.