You can search, browse, and explore over 2,000 finding aids that describe archival collections held by Tulane University Special Collections (TUSC) via Tulane University's instance of ArchivesSpace. This search tool also enables you to search finding aids for archival collections held by the Newcomb Archives and The Latin American Library. Please consult each repository for more information on access policies, location, and hours.
For an overview of how to understand and use a finding aid in ArchivesSpace, please consult this guide developed by MIT Libraries.
What Is Archival Description?
Archival description is the language used to describe archival material in a finding aid and for digitized archival items. Finding aids and digitized archival material represent the holdings of a repository and are written by archivists or staff while processing or digitizing a collection. The goal of archival description is to document the contents of a collection or a portion of a collection thereby facilitating access. For access to our finding aids, please visit https://archives.tulane.edu/. If you encounter harmful or non-inclusive language in archival description, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The staff of Tulane University Special Collections (TUSC) acknowledges that harmful and non-inclusive language can be found in the descriptions of our archival collections. Harmful and non-inclusive language reinforces inequalities between groups and reinforces the power structures that disenfranchise these groups. Harmful description includes terms that may be ableist, ethnocentric, heterocentric, homophobic, racist, or sexist to describe individuals, groups of people, and perspectives. Non-inclusive description can valorize one group or person over another and obscures the lives of those described in the written historical record. Some of this language will be maintained as part of the historical record while other instances of this language will require revision or additional information. See the following examples:
- Information will be maintained in order to retain the historical record.
- For example, original folder titles are an example of language provided by the creator that we maintain in order to preserve the historical record, even if it includes harmful or non-inclusive language.
- Information will be revised if it is harmful or non-inclusive and was written by an archivist in a finding aid or other forms of description.
- For example, identification of a woman by her husband’s name or “and wife” in the caption of a photograph is an example of the type of non-inclusive language that will be updated if we can identify and include the person’s full name.
- Information will be added if a person, group, or subject has been excluded.
- For example, if a collection of personal papers contains material on both a husband and wife but the title includes only the name of one of the male creator, the title will be adjusted to include the preferred name of the female creator.
- Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) can be harmful and non-inclusive. We aim to eliminate the use of harmful and non-inclusive LCSH in our descriptions.
- For example, see the Report of the SAC Working Group on Alternatives to LCSH “Illegal aliens”
To that end, we commit to the following:
- We commit to using non-harmful and inclusive language in our descriptive practices.
- We commit to repairing harmful and non-inclusive language in our archival descriptions.
- We commit to treating archival description as a living organism, and to stay informed about continued development of archival descriptive practices and our own implicit biases and limitations as archivists.
- We commit to creating guiding principles for description that aid in how we approach our current descriptive practices and the repair of harmful and non-inclusive description.
- We commit to being transparent and documenting our method to repairing harmful and non-inclusive archival descriptions.
References and Sources For Further Reading
- Rubenstein Library Technical Services Department Guiding Principles for Description
- Princeton University Library Special Collections Statement on Language in Archival Description
- Temple University Special Collections Research Center Statement on Potentially Harmful Language in Archival Description and Cataloging
- Society of American Archivists, "Statement of Principles," Describing Archives: A Content Standard (DACS)
- Society of American Archivists, Description Section. “Inclusive Description Resources”
- Sunshine State Digital Network Inclusive Metadata & Conscious Editing Resources