Statement on Archival Language

Princeton University Library aims to describe archival materials in a manner that is respectful to the individuals and communities who create, use, and are represented in the collections we manage. However, for a variety of reasons, users may encounter offensive or harmful language, for example, language that is racist, sexist, or homophobic, in our finding aids. While some descriptions in our finding aids are written by staff, others reflect language that was used by the people and organizations that created the material (folder titles are a common example; it is standard practice not to change them when present). When we encounter problematic language that we believe an archivist created, we update it. Language that comes from the original archival material can provide information about the people who created it. In such cases, the work of the archivist is to provide additional context.

Staff are currently implementing practices to address offensive or harmful language as part of routine description work. In addition, we encourage users to provide feedback to help us tackle this issue. We recognize that terminology evolves over time and that efforts to create respectful and inclusive description must be ongoing.

Please contact us if you encounter problematic description by notifying reading room staff or clicking the “Report Harmful Language or Content” button from any page on this site. Staff will review the description and update it in a way that balances the preservation of original context with an awareness of the effect of language on our users. Revisions may include providing additional context and/or replacing problematic terminology. We welcome your feedback.