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Statement on Updating Collections Description with Reparative Language

Apr 2, 2021

If you scroll to the bottom of any record in our online collection, you’ll notice a new paragraph addressing our commitment to writing image descriptions that are respectful to the individuals and communities who create, use, and are represented in them.

Portrait of Sara Baro Colcher
Studio Portrait of Sarah Baro Colcher, Boston, Massachusetts, c. 1864, Theodore Wyman, Photographer

For a variety of reasons, visitors may encounter outdated, harmful, or offensive language in collections descriptions. We are always reviewing and revising these descriptions in a way that balances original context with an awareness of the effect of language used. We can remedy some issues quickly, but others require more systematic review and intervention.

Historic New England is committed to implementing reparative language descriptions for existing collections and creating respectful and inclusive language descriptions for new collections.

Help our collections services team

If you encounter language in our online collection that is harmful or offensive, or you find materials that would benefit from a content warning, please email us about it. We welcome your feedback.

Our statement on harmful language in collections descriptions and assessment work currently underway draws on the work of many others institutions including: Drexel University, Temple University, Tufts University, Princeton University, and Yale University.

Additional Resources and Further Reading:

American Alliance of Museums Diversity, Equity, Accessibility and Inclusion Statement

Archives for Black Lives in Philadelphia Anti-Racist Description Resources

Facing Change: Insights from the American Alliance of Museums Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion Working Group

Harvard University Guidelines for Inclusive and Conscientious Description

New England Museum Association, A Guide for Land Acknowledgements

New England Museum Association Teen Guides: A Roadmap to Cultivating Diverse, Equitable and Inclusive Museums

New England Museum Association, Race in the Museum: Facing Change

Protocols for Native American Archival Materials

Society of American Archivists Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives

Society of American Archivists Inclusive Description Resources