Bringing history up to date can make it very real for certain individuals, in some cases this can have a detrimental effect on their health and well-being. Traditionally viewing artefacts promoted a passive interest as the objects on display did not have a direct correlation with the viewer. The thread of this Yarn seeks to start a discussion and promote thought regarding the effects of interactive and online development and whether the museum community should have a moral responsibility to monitor content and signpost relevant help or advice.
The example I am using is just one of many topics that could be raised, I have chosen Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as I have viewed separate exhibits at the Science Museum in London and the Thackray Medical Museum in Leeds as well as reading associated stories on Yarn.
Visits to ‘Wounded: Conflict, Casualties and Care’ at the Science Museum and ‘Recovery? From Flanders to Afghanistan’ at the Thackray Medical Museum both culminated in a display which started with Shell Shock during the 1st World War and terminated with poignant video diaries of personal stories related to PTSD recorded by veterans of our armed services. To the viewing public these can appear to be nothing more than documentaries of tragic events, but to those who experienced similar events, words and images can induce flashbacks, nightmares and other horrific symptoms.
It can also affect those with transferred Military PTSD and associated forms which they developed as a consequence of an attachment to the Armed Forces such as family and friends who have undergone trauma and abuse as the result of a third parties service. I would have liked to see an element of signposting at each exhibition which would have directed individuals who are affected by the content towards the relevant help, at the moment that doesn't exist and if you were simply looking at a case of items from 100 years ago it probably wouldn't be needed.
Documenting a story on Yarn can also be a trigger for some people, in other cases it can be cathartic and some forms of therapeutic intervention would encourage the behaviour, it is an entirely individual response.
As with any online forum, the content needs to be closely monitored to prevent it being used as anything other than a social history tool, the webmaster has a duty of care not only to the contributor but also the reader. Those with a genuine story to share should be able to do so without fear of abuse from those who do not share a willingness to serve their country, equally the published content needs to be suitable for the expected audience.
Yarn has the capacity to become a unique resource, not only displaying history but also recording the 'now' for future generations. As it builds and moves forward it needs to provide relevant links to help and support but also a reporting tool for offensive articles to be notified to. Stringent ethical guidelines are needed to govern content allowing a balance of free speech and restrict the promotion of unhelpful opinion.