Within the collections of the University of Toronto Archives and Records Management Services (UTARMS), users may encounter offensive and harmful terminology, depictions, and perspectives in the language that describes our material and the content of the material itself. This can include expressions of prejudice based on race, ethnicity, religion, class, sexuality, ability, appearance, and gender.
Records and descriptions of records capture the attitudes of both the individuals and organizations who created them. Whether these values were historically commonplace or not, we recognize how they contribute to legacies that continue to cause harm. Understanding the effects of harmful language within our collections and descriptions is the responsibility of UTARMS. We apologize to our users and community negatively impacted by how our records have been described. As a department, we continue to reflect critically on these impacts in order to improve user's experiences with our collections and minimize harm.
With a desire to retain records’ context and preserve our ability to examine and understand difficult histories, the original language used in archival material is generally maintained and noted in a way that offers warnings and additional searching ability with alternate language. In some instances, archivists remove slurs and / or other offensive language and document the removal in a note. For descriptions created by UTARMS using offensive terminology, we remove the language and note the nature of the change publicly.
These types of changes were initiated in 2022 following an audit that UTARMS performed on our archival descriptions to identify problematic language used by both archivists and creators of records. This work has included remediating terminology, identifying discriminatory language and content, providing greater context around these records through re-description, and improving the visibility of our own practices. This is ongoing work and as we continue reviewing both our descriptions and the content of records, we are grateful to receive feedback on how we are doing, as well as suggestions for descriptions and collections that need further attention.
Last updated: 2023-02-15