Afterlives of Evidence: A Response from @katbhave

New Zealand-based librarian Kat Moody read my post on Afterlives of Evidence, archives, and grief last week. She offers this response, exploring military history, natural disasters, landscape and memory.

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Photograph by Kat Moody

Recently I had the opportunity at work to attend a course on character strengths run by the Mental Health Education Resource Centre. It’s great that these opportunities for healthcare professional development are being opened up to librarians. Last year I went to one of their courses on grief. This was an incredibly valuable session where I learnt a lot; one thing that stood out to me was that we don’t just grieve for people, we also grieve for places and things, particularly in times of change. Sometimes these aspects are inextricably linked.

Because I work in the centre of Christchurch, I am surrounded by sites of memory and sites of mourning. Read more

IFLA and Beyond: Afterlives of Evidence

Trigger warning for death, violence.

This week, I talked about building new partnerships and opportunities for libraries at the IFLA President’s Meeting in Barcelona – a global gathering of library leaders.

We looked at ways to identify fresh connections between libraries’ mission and the goals of other institutions and communities, with a special focus on healthcare.

Then I read about new research exploring whether it is beneficial for bereaved relatives to view crime scene materials after violent death.

This complex and sensitive topic is one which has potential to bring solace to grieving families – but it must be approached carefully.

An article in The Conversation on the benefits of viewing crime scene photographs also draws attention to growing public interest in forensic images, the preservation of those images as cultural artefacts, and their wider circulation in the digital age.

The Conversation quotes legal scholar Katherine Biber pointing out that “we lack a forum to think about…’the afterlives of evidence.'”

Yet the afterlife of evidence is one of the key fields of librarianship.

The issue raised is precisely the kind to which librarians bring useful expertise, experience, and values.

There are questions of archiving and access; of sensitive work with clients in difficult emotional circumstances; questions, too, about the media and context in which this material is shared.

All of this lies firmly within the territory of today’s librarians and the experience of knowledge workers like my friend and former Auckland Libraries colleague Natasha Barrett. Natasha, in addition to her library work, has held roles with the duty of repatriating Indigenous remains from cultural institutions.

So could librarians be leading this conversation with police, social workers, and representatives of the bereaved?

The Conversation authors also write that:

We need to move away from approaching grief as a medical event subject to diagnosis, and instead turn our attention to the diverse needs of family members as they comprehend the realities of death, and the meanings of that death in their own lives.

This, too, is a wider discussion to which libraries can contribute – as in a 2016 “death literacy” panel discussion which I ran for the State Library of Queensland. That event, recorded as a one-off library podcast, formed part of a “microfestival which explores, challenges, and celebrates our understanding of death, dying, and bereavement”.

 

These wider public engagements sit alongside the more sensitive work required to deal with individual forensic archives in the context of violent death, and alongside work with health practitioners as well as the general public.

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In both broad public engagement and private sharing of forensic media, there is a significant opportunity for brave, principled, and caring knowledge workers to enter this difficult terrain and bring their skills to bear on how families and communities deal with the end of life.

Becoming death literate – panel discussion

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After Brisbane’s first Deathfest – a microfestival which explores, challenges, and celebrates our understanding of death, dying, and bereavement – I’m pleased to share a panel discussion which addressed grief, death, and end-of-life care in modern-day Queensland.

Joining me were Fiona Hawthorne, general manager at Hummingbird House, Queensland’s first children’s hospice; Ian Mellor, who manages body bequests for Queensland University of Technology; and Dr Sarah Winch, healthcare ethicist at the University of Queensland and author of Best Death Possible.

In an age when literacy has come to mean so many things – always with a sense of empowering people to read or make sense of some new terrain, topic, or experience – what would it mean for us to become truly “death literate”?

You can listen to the panel discussion now by clicking on this link or visit the State Library website.

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For more on healthcare and wellbeing work during my 2016 Queensland residency, read  “On Health and Wellbeing” and “Giant Robots Need Therapy Too“.

For more on Deathfest, visit the Metro Arts website.

Brisbane Deathfest 2016

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This weekend sees the launch of Deathfest, Brisbane’s week long microfestival which explores, challenges, and celebrates our understanding of death, dying, and bereavement.

I sat down for a special panel discussion with three guests to discuss grief, death, and end-of-life care in modern-day Queensland.

Joining me were Fiona Hawthorne, general manager at Hummingbird House, Queensland’s first children’s hospice; Ian Mellor, who manages body bequests for Queensland University of Technology; and Dr Sarah Winch, healthcare ethicist at the University of Queensland and author of Best Death Possible.

We talked about green burials, rituals of death in the 21st century, and the largely hidden processes, procedures, and institutions which deal with death in our society.

In an age when literacy has come to mean so many things – always with a sense of empowering people to read or make sense of some new terrain, topic, or experience – what would it mean for us to become truly “death literate”?

Our discussion will be online soon.

For more on healthcare and wellbeing work during my 2016 Queensland residency, read  “On Health and Wellbeing” and “Giant Robots Need Therapy Too“.