A York University sociology professor wants to build what she calls the world’s first comprehensive public archive of memorial tattoos – tattoos that honour a deceased loved one or commemorate a past event or life transition. The professor, Deborah Davidson, says memorial tattoos “both embody memory and serve as a kind of translator of memory into a language readable by others.” The project is being funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.
The goal is to collect 500 images and their “contextualizing narratives” to start. But Dr. Davidson says this would be just the first phase of a larger, cross-disciplinary international collaboration of scholars at York, the University of Toronto, the University of Bath and Plymouth University in the U.K., and Monash University in Australia.
The archive will be not just an academic tool, says Dr. Davidson, but also will serve as a place to foster new relationships between academics and individuals with memorial tattoos, along with tattoo artists and community groups. As well, users will have the option to become a part of the project by uploading their own images and stories.