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Effective March 17th, the Ryerson Archives and Special Collections will be closed until further notice. See our update for more information.

Language in Archival Descriptions

Ryerson Library Archives & Special Collections consists of historical items and records that may contain offensive, outdated language in their titles and descriptions, and/or may depict individuals or groups, particularly those who are marginalized, in a negative way. Maintaining these records, and making them available to students, researchers, and the public, is important to help to understand the historic and continued burden marginalised communities face. 

While some language in our catalogue is created by our team, some terminology is supplied by the creator of the record or may be pulled from the item itself for historical context. While we will retain legacy terminology within the record to facilitate retrieval, we are actively working on updating archival descriptions to name instances of discrimination, contextualize records and use descriptive language that respects the people and events represented in the material.

If you encounter records with harmful language or inaccurate statements in our catalogue, blog posts, exhibitions or if you have any questions about our work please let us know by completing this FORM. We appreciate your feedback as we are actively working on reviewing legacy descriptions and enhancing the metadata in our records.

Additional Resources

Archives for Black Lives in Philadelphia Anti-Racist Description Working Group

Toward Culturally Competent Archival (Re)Description of Marginalized Histories

Library and Archives Canada Historical Language Advisory

University of Waterloo Language in Archival Descriptions

SCRC Statement on Potentially Harmful Language in Archival Description and Cataloging

List of statements on bias in library and archives description