Impact on Belonging: Understanding Trauma Within GLAM

To truly belong we must feel safe, but to recognise what can make someone safe we must first consider what makes people unsafe. Galleries, libraries, archives and museums (GLAM) all contain traumatic and distressing materials, that will always be unsafe for some, but as we strive for an open and diverse workforce, and inclusive places and spaces, we must recognise and respond to the trauma inherent within GLAM.

This paper reports on work undertaken to raise awareness of trauma-informed practice and to respond to issues of vicarious trauma in archives, and discusses the applicability of trauma-informed practice to the library sector. This work has focused on using trauma-informed practice as a framework for ensuring safety for all who interact with archives: patrons, researchers and donors, as well as staff and volunteers. As professions that respect the value of lived experience in our community, we have a responsibility to address the challenge of making memory organisations safer places for all to engage.

While conversations and resources have so far concentrated on archives, we know trauma-informed practice has broader application across the GLAM sector. Work undertaken has included developing an online course, A Trauma-Informed Approach to Managing Archives, running allied workshops around implementing trauma-informed practice at participants’ organisations, establishing an international community of practice, and developing an international survey to better understand the landscape of trauma and archives.

This paper will consider the impact trauma has on how people belong in the archival profession and in archival spaces, and reflect on the parallels across GLAM organisations, particularly libraries. It will discuss what responsibilities educators, workplaces and professional associations have to make libraries and other GLAM organisations safe and empowering for all, and consider resources to support library staff and users working with traumatic or distressing collections and situations. This paper will address how we can work together to build a sector-wide response that helps us create diverse, open and inclusive professions that everyone can belong in.

Nicola Laurent

PhD Student, University of Melbourne

Author Bio

Nicola Laurent (she/her) is a PhD candidate in the School of Social Work at the University of Melbourne undertaking research about people’s experiences of trauma in archives. She is also the Senior Project Archivist on the Find & Connect web resource team at the University of Melbourne. Nicola advocates for trauma-informed archival practice, including the creation of resources and support networks to support its implementation and discusses the impact of vicarious trauma on archivists. Nicola is the International Council on Archives’ New Professionals Programme Coordinator, the President of the Australian Society of Archivists, and co-founder of the Trauma-Informed Archives Community of Practice. She received International Council on Archives’ Programme Commission funding to undertake the Understanding the international landscape of trauma and archives project, and the subsequent Resources to support archivists encountering trauma in archives project.

Kirsten Wright

Program Manager, Find & Connect Web Resource, University of Melbourne

Author Bio

Kirsten Wright (she/her) is the Program Manager, Find & Connect web resource, University of Melbourne. Prior to this, she held a number of roles at Victoria University (Australia), including University Archivist, and also worked at the Public Record Office Victoria. She has previously published and presented on topics including archives and power, historical language and archival description, trauma-informed archival practice, and out-of-home care records. She is a co-founder of the Trauma-Informed Archives Community of Practice.