Session 4.8 - Panel Session: Designing a Trauma-Informed Archive (& Archivist)


Panellists: Jennifer Douglas, Michaela Hart, Nicola Laurent, Proscovia Svärd

Date Added:

24 October 2019

Bringing emotional labour, empathy, and an acknowledgement of the power of records to the fore within the archival profession, this panel offers a range of perspectives on what it means to be a trauma-informed archivist and enact trauma-informed archival practice. Reminding us of the influence of archives and their ability to effect, and be affected by, individuals and archival practices, each panel member will give a 15 minute presentation on the broad theme of trauma-informed archival practice. Topics discussed include Truth and Reconciliation Commission documentation, out-of-Home care records, grief and recordkeeping, and creating cultural change. The panel will argue that trauma-informed archival practice is about putting people first, recognising the needs of communities and the ability of records and archives to address this. The panel will conclude with a discussion with the audience, exploring the idea of an archive and archivist to be trauma-informed by design. This discussion will allow for people to share successes and failures in progressing beyond archival neutrality, recognising archival affect and power, and into challenging but productive change.


Jennifer Douglas is an assistant professor at the iSchool at UBC (Library, Archival and Information Studies) where she teaches courses on personal and community archives and archival representation. Her research focuses on the roles of recordkeeping in the intimate and emotional lives of individuals and communities. She is currently engaged in a project, funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada, that explores the relationships between records work and grief work and how understanding the emotional and affective roles of records in peoples’ lives can contribute to more sensitive, engaging and responsive archival access paradigms.


Michaela Hart is a Senior Archivist at the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services. Her current focus is a digital preservation project, working with photographs, magnetic media and artefacts that are of value to people who spent time in institutional care. She is committed to progressing the conversation around emotional labour and archival practice, and finding ways to embed trauma informed practices. Michaela’s background was in nursing and community development work, which gave her a firm understanding of the role archives play in justice and peace processes. The long term impact of structural violence and inequality continues to motivate her work and her ongoing goal is to seek opportunities that blend archival practice and research in spaces that support social change. Michaela holds Masters degrees in Peace Studies and Archives & Information Management. Her research thesis was on the role of Change Management and Digital preservation in Australian Archives.


Nicola Laurent is the Senior Project Archivist on the Find & Connect web resource team, eScholarship Research Centre, University of Melbourne. Nicola advocates for trauma-informed archival practice including sustainable access to online material through the preservation of links, promoting the issue of content drift and link rot, and discusses the impact of vicarious trauma on archivists. She previously presented on topics including vicarious trauma, emotional labour, broken links, interactive timelines and engaging with community. Nicola is Vice-President for the Australian Society of Archivists and was a 2016 recipient of the International Council of Archives New Professional bursary. Nicola completed a Master of Business Information System Professional at Monash University, with a semester of study completed at Simmons College, Boston.


Proscovia Svärd is a Senior Lecturer and Researcher at the Faculty of Science, Technology and Media, Department of Information Systems and Technology, Forum for Digitalization, Mid Sweden University. She completed her Post-doctoral Research at the School of Interdisciplinary Research and Postgraduate Studies, University of South Africa, between 2016-2017. She is a Research Fellow at the Department of Information Science, University of South Africa. She has worked as an Archivist at the Nordic Africa Research Institute in Uppsala, Sweden, Research Administrator for the Program on Post-Conflict Transition, the State and Civil Society, Project Co-ordinator for a Nordic Documentation Project on the Liberation Struggles in Southern Africa ( She completed her PhD at the University of Amsterdam. She has a Licentiate Degree in Computer and Systems Sciences, BA and MA in Archives and Information Science from Mid Sweden University, Sweden and a BSc in Media and Information Science from Uppsala University, Sweden.