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As part of an ongoing commitment to engaging in anti-racist archival practices, SCARC staff are engaging in educational opportunities and department wide conversations on how to be anti-racist, and we are identifying harmful language in our existing collection finding aids to change the language where appropriate and highlight it otherwise. We recognize that anti-racist work is a journey of personal and professional growth and we acknowledge we have to do the work on ourselves before we can help address the issues within our profession.
We are actively and collaboratively engaging in these actions within our policies and processes to ensure anti-racist practices are embedded within SCARC now and in the future. SCARC archivists are taking the following steps listed below to address harmful language within our collections:
Identifying harmful language and imagery.
We are in the process of identifying language and imagery in collections, collection descriptions, and digital object metadata in order to update, remove, provide a warning to help researchers prepare emotionally, or give context to any language and imagery that is euphemistic, racist, homophobic, sexist, ableist, or otherwise harmful.
Updating collection descriptions and digital object metadata.
SCARC staff acknowledge that we have biases and power in our choice of language when we create our collection finding aids, especially when we write biographical or historical notes about the creators of our collections, as well as when we describe the scope and content of our collections. For all newly created finding aids and digital objects, we are committed to using inclusive, anti-racist, non-derogatory language; however, we acknowledge that some of our legacy finding aids contain language that is euphemistic, racist, homophobic, sexist, and ableist. Language that was considered acceptable by archivists in the past is sometimes no longer adequate or appropriate, and we are dedicated to correcting those records as we identify them. When applicable, collection finding aids will include a “Statement on Description” field to include a link to this guide and information specific to the collection’s descriptive language, as well as imagery, and whether or not archivists have reused descriptions provided by a donor or have provided the language themselves.
Retaining harmful language in collection descriptions and digital object metadata, with context and reasoning provided.
In some cases, after serious and collaborative deliberation, we have retained harmful language and include information in the finding aid’s “Statement on Description” field to identify the language retained and why, and indicate whether or not we have reused the descriptive language provided by the collection creator or donor, or if we have provided the language ourselves.
Some situations where this might occur are:
As part of our standard practice for new digital objects, we are being intentional about using anti-racist terminology to describe the content being presented. This process includes describing content related to race, sexuality and gender, and immigration status, for example, using inclusive terminology that communities have adopted to describe themselves.
We are also remediating legacy descriptions for digital objects that do not conform to the best practices being deployed for the creation of new digital objects. This activity will be a major point of emphasis for our digital collections work going forward.
As part of our arrangement and description work, we are developing a list of questions to use as a lens when we review finding aids that we create. We are continuing to develop and populate the list of problematic terms and collections, and planning workflows for remediation.
All SCARCers participated in the DeEtta Jones "Essentials of Cultural Competence" course; this participation was a library-wide initiative.
Creation and addition of a statement regarding the OSU - UO athletic rivalry formerly referred to as the "Civil War" in all relevant finding aids. A blog post with additional historical context for this rivalry and its name can be found on SCARC's blog, Speaking of History., in the post "The Origins of the “Civil War” Football Game" and a follow up blog post "SCARC Anti-Racist Action: Addressing the Use of the Athletics-Related Phrase “Civil War”" shares the behind the scenes process for this work.
Resolution of an issue with the Archives West compliance checker that prevented the use of multiple languages in the text of a finding aid. We noted this issue when a revision of the Guide to the Erlinda Gonzales-Berry Papers (which includes both English and Spanish description of the collection) was submitted to Archives West. We reported the issue to the Alliance and it was resolved quickly.
Creation of “Statement on Description” field for collection finding aids to include a link to this guide, as well as information specific to the collection’s descriptive language, as well as imagery, and whether or not archivists have reused descriptions provided by a donor or have provided the language themselves.
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