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Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Potentially Harmful Content

Special Collections and Archives recognizes that there is a legacy of structural racism—and other systems of oppression, such as heteronormativity, sexism, and ableism—that has permeated our society, institutions, and practices. As archival and library professionals, we approach collection development and description with the following understandings:  


  • we must actively seek ways to identify and work through our biases to help dismantle systemic oppression at the structural, institutional, interpersonal, and individual levels
  • we need to challenge traditional archival concepts (e.g., neutrality, provenance, discovery, record, evidence), which in instances have reproduced relationships of power
  • we are accountable for the description of materials we collect and make accessible to the public
  • we understand the importance of educating ourselves and others
  • we must continually think of new outreach and advocacy approaches to foment a legacy of trust around our archives
  • we anticipate feelings of discomfort, which should not compromise the accuracy of our descriptions
  • we acknowledge that archival description is an iterative and imperfect process
  • our policies, procedures, and practices will continue evolving as we receive feedback and suggestions from our communities


Advancing diversity, equity, and inclusiveness requires participatory and collaborative efforts.

We are a department that includes archivists, librarians, staff members, student assistants, interns, and volunteers. Together, we are working towards preserving and sharing our history—however complex or discomforting it may be—and offering meaningful learning and research experiences for all our users. We are taking the following steps as part of our routine work to identify and address sensitive or harmful language in our collections:

  1. Audit our collections and finding aids to examine our descriptive practices (e.g. description, narration, and exhibition)
  2. Engage the community of users to provide feedback, questions, and comments to help us address these concerns
  3. Repair archival description by remediating or contextualizing potentially outdated/harmful language and by focusing on inclusive and community-centered archival description
  4. Develop inclusive policies, procedures, and practices that help us advance intergenerational justice and build trust with our communities


We welcome your feedback on this statement and encourage your suggestions for revising it via email to


Also, if you come across language in a finding aid, catalog record, or digital collection description that you find offensive or harmful, please reach out to us via email at Offensive language that comes from the original historical record, however, can inform our community about the people who created it and the society in which they produced it. In such cases, we will review the description and update it in a way that we believe preserves historical integrity, while raising awareness of the impact language can have on users and on those depicted in our collections. These revisions may include providing additional context and/or replacing problematic lexicon.


This statement was modeled after statements crafted by CalPoly, DPLA, Tufts University, and Stanford University




Statement Approved on 11/19/2021