This article presents some of the methods used to provide emotional support to volunteers working with the Manchester Together Archive (MTA) during a recent partnership project between Manchester Art Gallery, Archives+ and the University of Manchester, supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. The MTA is made up of thousands of tributes that were left in St Ann’s Square and other locations by members of the public following the attack at Manchester Arena on 22 May 2017. The material carries a heavy emotional load, so project staff aimed to design a volunteering programme that supported the emotional wellbeing of volunteers. The methods shared here will be of particular relevance to archivists managing volunteers working with trauma-related collections, which might include organisations engaged in contemporary collecting around COVID-19.
Jenny Marsden reflects on the work that has taken place with the Manchester Together Archive over the last 18 months, focusing on the volunteering programme to catalogue and digitise the material, and the visits and workshops that have helped the archive team understand more about how people would like to access and use the tributes in the archive. The insight also considers the public response to the Manchester Attack in 2017 in the context of the COVID-19 global pandemic.