Descriptive Language Statement
Records held by the BCM&CC are historical in nature and contain language or depictions of people representative of their time. Records documenting the past may also reflect continuing injustices, offensive or harmful attitudes and behaviours, and include records of a culturally sensitive nature. These items may include cultural references and stereotypes that are no longer used or appropriate today, and which may depict individuals or groups in a negative way.
The BCM&CC is committed to implementing descriptive practices which result in record descriptions that are accurate and respectful, and which do not cause unnecessary harm or offense, while preserving the historical context of the items.
When describing items, historical language used by the original creators in titles, tables of contents, and direct quotes from the items, is repeated in its original form to preserve the context in which the records were created. This approach, while potentially upsetting, allows for the critical assessment and questioning of historical material by contemporary researchers.
BCM&CC staff understand the impact historical language and images have both on researchers accessing our collections and on the perpetuation of systemic and cultural bias. As a result, staff are actively working to:
- identify and name instances of racism, homophobia, sexism, ableism and other forms of discrimination within the items being described, through language content advisory notices;
- update archival descriptions to contextualize items and use current descriptive language that respects the people and events reflected in the items held in our Collection.
- In some cases, staff may deem it necessary to remove slurs and offensive terms from titles, tables of contents and/or direct quotes; such instances will be clearly indicated with the use of square brackets and a note. In such cases, researchers are welcome contact the Archives to view the words removed.
The BCM&CC views the work described above to be consistent and supportive of the BCM&CC’s Strategic Plan 2021-2026, as well as the Association of Canadian Archivists’ Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct and the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. The BCM&CC will continue to engage and consult with local community groups to ensure inclusion in the work.
If you see item descriptions with harmful language or inaccurate statements in our Online Collections catalogue, brucemuseum.ca, or exhibitions, please let us know by contacting email@example.com or calling us at 519-797-2080. Please include as much detail as possible regarding the language or content which requires our attention, such as the object identification number or the link to the record. We appreciate your feedback as we work to create respectful and inclusive descriptions.
- “Archives for Black Lives in Philadelphia: Anti-Racist Description Resources” created for Black Lives in Philadelphia’s Anti-Racist Description Working Group, October 2019
- Cataloginglab.org. List of Statements on Bias in Library and Archives Description, accessed May 2022.
- Library and Archives Canada. Notice about the collection: “Historical Language Advisory.” January 1, 2020.
- Toronto Metropolitan University Archives & Special Collections “Language in Archival Descriptions”, accessed May 2022
- University of Waterloo Special Collections & Archives “Language in Archival Description Changes” April 27, 2020
- Foisy-Geoffroey, Dominique (Library and Archives Canada). Between duty to remember and imperatives of reconciliation: Procedures for Writing Culturally Sensitive Titles for Descriptions of Indigenous Materials at Library and Archives Canada, Presentation at the 2019 CRKN Access to Knowledge Conference.