Descriptions in a library archive are the anchoring guide to all information that’s available to those who are researching a subject of their choosing. For hundreds of years, estates, historical documents, artifacts, moving images, and sound material have been donated to libraries and universities for the use of higher education, but without a tool to help one navigate the endless amount of information, knowledge will become doormat if there’s no organizational means of looking it up. With the use of Describing Archives: A Content Standard (DACS), this system can help provide direction towards what you’re looking for to the point of eventually becoming the standard digital design of library archives for both public and academic standards. However, through the transfer of information of analog media towards electronic internet access, historical documentation and descriptions are not only present for easy user access, but a lot of this information remains intact from the original notes of both the creator and donator of an archive.
For the sake of historical accuracy, it is still a unique perception that researchers can observe the point of view of early explorers, historians, and archeologists, however, this same unchanged language also contains a dark cloud of colonization. Through this lens, the approach towards a non-western populace, especially for indigenous people, is characterized with not only an opinion that is racist, but it’s also dismissive towards native people as anything other than an exploitative capitalist commodity.
Furthermore, as the world slowly moved on from European imperialism, the depictions towards ethnic minorities are still being used in the descriptions of archives that today are considered outdated, offensive, hateful, and contemptuous. Despite this knowledge, archive descriptions from all over the world still contain unfiltered terminology that’s slipped through the cracks and can be easily found while researching through prominent university archives.
The process of cleaning up problematic historical terminology along with changing the narrative of who was being written about is not only a matter of decolonizing academia, but in the long run, it’s also about acceptance, tolerance, education, and treating people like human beings. Fortunately, steps have been taken to chip away at the toxicity of racism that are contained within the descriptions of archives. This process is slowly ongoing, but the examination of how this problem is still persistent can also lead us to improved methods of cleaning up hateful language and biased viewpoints without erasing history and more importantly, to help create an improved tolerance for a better future.
Library and Information Science
Daronco, Michael J., "Decolonizing Descriptions in Library Archives" (2024). School of Information Sciences Student Scholarship. 8.
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