Digging Deep into Reparative Description: A Panel Discussion on Tools and Workflows

Authors: , , , , ,


Institutional Special Collections and Archives have historically held Eurocentric values, resulting in a lack of representation of marginalized voices. If the materials do exist in their holdings, dated practices and a lack of focus have kept histories of historically excluded communities hidden. The archival and library professions have in the last several years turned to reparative description, which the Society of American Archivists defines as “remediation of practices or data that exclude, silence, harm, or mischaracterize marginalized people in the data created or used by archivists to identify or characterize archival resources.” Reparative description is multifaceted, and collaboration is critical to achieving a shared goal of more representative description. Some approaches to reparative or ethical description include updating language such as subject terms and records about people to be more inclusive, appropriate, and centered on the chosen vocabulary/ies of the communities and individuals in question.

This session will look at a variety of mechanisms, tools, and workflows libraries and archives are using to make collection description more equitable and inclusive. Presenters will address harmful content statements on institutional websites, identifying outdated language in finding aids and other descriptions and requesting public feedback on how to improve this language through multiple approaches. They will also discuss auditing existing description to add more robust subject and agent tagging for marginalized subjects and creators and updating accessioning workflows going forward to make sure this information is no longer left out or subsumed by cis white heteronormative subjects and agents. The panelists' remarks will include whether or not they have been successful in their efforts, lessons learned, and a discussion of other options institutions may wish to consider.

Keywords: catalog records, description, reparative description, finding aids, harmful content statements, subject headings

How to Cite: Bock, A. , Huggard, M. , McLaughlin, B. , Smith, L. , Silver, J. & Young, M. (2023) “Digging Deep into Reparative Description: A Panel Discussion on Tools and Workflows”, MAC Annual Meeting Presentations. 2023(1).