Student Theses

Date of Award

Spring 5-22-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Library Science/Master of Life Sciences (MLS)



First Advisor

Dr. Jonathan Thayer


Whether deliberately collected or not, evidence of trauma is commonly found in archival collections. As a result, the field has seen a recent increase in conference presentations regarding archivists’ experience of working with traumatic materials, yet little has actually been researched or published. Vicarious trauma, as it is known in psychological contexts, is the understanding that individuals engaging with survivors of trauma may experience the emotional labor of their clients in secondary form. Although the concept of vicarious trauma is almost exclusively applied to mental health professionals, archivists are recognizing the need to integrate the prevalence of vicarious trauma within archival practice into larger conversations. To contribute to the emerging topic of vicarious trauma in archival professions, a survey was conducted to explore how archivists are being supported if they may have worked with records documenting trauma. The results of this survey demonstrated that archivists in the United States have engaged with traumatic records of all kinds but have received little support for their emotional and mental well-being after working with such content. The survey also highlighted possible approaches to improve support for archivists who have experienced vicarious trauma, as well as potential avenues for further research.



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