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McDaniel College Archives: Offensive Materials in the Archives

Statement on Records with Offensive Material

The McDaniel College Archives' collections contain records that are historical in nature and products of the time and society under which they were created. Some materials within our collections contain language or images that users could find inappropriate or offensive. McDaniel College does not endorse the views expressed in these materials, which are inconsistent with the college's commitment to creating an inclusive, open, and accessible learning community. These items have been retained as they originally existed to preserve the integrity of the historical record and to foster accountability for the institution's actions and decisions. 

Records containing offensive or inappropriate language or depictions will contain a note in the collection or item's ArchivesSpace record, finding aid, or digital representation. In doing so, we hope to allow users the choice to view or not material that may be harmful or lead to the reactivation of trauma. These notes will be added as the material is discovered by the archives' staff. We encourage researchers to bring questionable material to the attention of the archives' staff. 

For more information on policies and procedures for identifying offensive material please see: Strategies for Diversity & Inclusion: Strengthening Accountability & Inclusion in McDaniel College Archives

Statement on Collection Description with Harmful Language

  1. Revising Outdated Collection Descriptions: The Archives will strive for respectful, accurate, and people-first language in its archival descriptions and cataloging practices. We recognize that descriptive practices are fluid and products of the historical contexts during which they were created. We recognize that some preexisting descriptions of our collections may contain language that is offensive or harmful to the groups or individuals being described. We will revise and replace inappropriate and inaccurate descriptions as they are discovered and maintain a record of changes to preserve the history of the description. Researchers are encouraged to bring questions of archival description to the attention of the archivist and library staff. 
  2. Maintaining Outdated Collection Description: In some circumstances, offensive language may be retained in archival descriptions when it maintains historical accuracy or reflects the social and cultural views of the time. Some examples include: 
    • Student groups and other campus organizations that use outdated terminology in their organization name 
    • Titles of essays, songs, books, and other publications that employ offensive or outdated language

When original language is kept, it will be noted in quotations to differentiate it from current archival description. 

Select Resources

Antracoli, Alexis A., Annalise Berdini, Kelly Bolding, Faith Charlton, Amanda Ferrara, Valencia Johnson, and Katy Rawdon. “Archives for Black Lives in Philadelphia: Anti-Racist Description Resources.” October 2020.

Chilcott, Alicia. "Towards Protocols for Describing Racially Offensive Language in UK Public Archives." Archival Science 19 (2019): 359-376.

Cifor, Marika. "Aligning Bodies: Collecting, Arranging, and Describing Hatred for a Critical Queer Archives." Library Trends vol. 64, no. 4 (2016): 756-775.

Rinn, Meghan R. "Nineteenth-Century Depictions of Disabilities and Modern Metadata: A Consideration of Materials in the P.T. Barnum Digital Collection." Journal of Contemporary Archival Studies vol. 5 (2018): 1-16.

The Diversity Style Guide. Society of Professional Journalists and College of Liberal and Creative Arts at San Francisco State University. Edited by Rachele Kanigel.

Wright, Kristen. "Archival Interventions and the Language We Use." Archival Science 19 (2019): 331-348.

Reviewed and Adopted December 2020.