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Resources for Creating Inclusive and Conscious Archival Description

This guide provides information and learning resources for writing inclusive and conscious archival description.


This guide provides information and resources for writing inclusive and conscious archival description. Archival description, usually in the form of a finding aid, is written by archivists to describe the arrangement and contents of an archival collection. The following resources are intended to educate and assist archivists in creating description that is accurate, inclusive, and respectful of the people and communities that create, use, and are represented in archival collections.

General resources

Arroyo-Ramirez, Elvia. “Invisible Defaults and Perceived Limitations: Processing the Juan Gelman Files.” Medium, October 30, 2016. Presented at the Fall 2016 meeting of the Preservation and Archiving Special Interest Group, New York, NY, October 28, 2016.

Bolding, Kelly. “Reparative Processing: A Case Study in Auditing Legacy Archival Description for Racism.” Presented at the Midwest Archives Conference, Chicago, IL, March 24, 2018.

Dean, Jackie. “Conscious Editing of Archival Description at UNC-Chapel Hill.” Journal of the Society of North Carolina Archivists 19 (2019): 41-55.

deGraffenreid, Alexandra. "Reparative Processing of the Luis Alberto Sánchez papers: Engaging the Conflict between Archival Values and Minimal Processing Practices." Across the Disciplines 18, no. 1/2 (2021-2022): 33-46.

Tang, Annie, Dorothy Berry, Kelly Bolding, and Rachel E. Winston. "Toward Culturally Competent Archival (Re)Description of Marginalized Histories." Presented at the annual meeting of the Society of American Archivists, Washington, DC, August 16, 2018.

Antracoli, Alexis A., Annalise Berdini, Kelly Bolding, Faith Charlton, Amanda Ferrara, Valencia Johnson, and Katy Rawdon. “Archives for Black Lives in Philadelphia: Anti-Racist Description Resources.” Last modified October 2020.

Berdini, Annalise, Rich Bernier, Valencia Johnson, Maggie McNeely, and Lydia Tang. “Arrangement and Description.” Archiving Student Activism Toolkit. Project STAND, November 2019.

Conscious Style Guide.

Cultural Heritage Terminology Network.

Design for Diversity Learning Toolkit.

Kanigel, Rachele, ed. The Diversity Style Guide.

Kapitan, Alex. Radical Copyeditor (blog).

Yale University Library. Reparative Archival Description Working Group.

Project Implicit Social Attitudes Tests.

Sunshine State Digital Network. “Introduction to Conscious Editing Series (3 parts).”

Caswell, Michelle, and Marika Cifor. "From Human Rights to Feminist Ethics: Radical Empathy in the Archives." Archivaria 81 (2016): 23-43.

Caswell, Michelle, and Gracen Brilmyer. “Identifying & Dismantling White Supremacy in Archives: An Incomplete List of White Privileges in Archives and Action Items for Dismantling Them” poster. Figure 1 in “Teaching to Dismantle White Supremacy in Archives," The Library Quarterly 87, no. 3 (July 2017): 222-235.

Caswell, Michelle, Ricardo Punzalan, and T-Kay Sangwand. “Critical Archival Studies: An Introduction,” Journal of Critical Library and Information Studies 1, no. 2 (2017).

Cook, Terry. “Evidence, Memory, Identity, and Community: Four Shifting Archival Paradigms.” Archival Science 13 (2013): 95-120.

Drabinski, Emily. “Queering the Catalog: Queer Theory and the Politics of Correction.” The Library Quarterly 83, no. 2 (April 2013): 94-111.

Drake, Jarrett M. “RadTech Meets RadArch: Towards A New Principle for Archives and Archival Description.” Medium, April 6, 2016. Presented at the Radcliffe Workshop on Technology & Archival Processing, Cambridge, MA, April 5, 2016.

Dunbar, Anthony W. “Introducing Critical Race Theory to Archival Discourse: Getting the Conversation Started.” Archival Science 6, no. 1 (2006): 109-29.

Engseth, Ellen. “Cultural Competency: A Framework for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in the Archival Profession in the United States.” The American Archivist 81, no. 2 (2018): 460-82.

Frick, Rachel L., and Merrilee Proffitt. Reimagine Descriptive Workflows: A Community-informed Agenda for Reparative and Inclusive Descriptive Practice. Dublin, OH: OCLC Research, 2022.

Jules, Bergis. “Confronting Our Failure of Care Around the Legacies of Marginalized People in the Archives.” Medium, November 11, 2016. Presented at the annual meeting of National Digital Stewardship Alliance, Milwaukee, WI, November 9, 2016.

Light, Michelle, and Tom Hyry. “Colophons and Annotations: New Directions for the Finding Aid.” The American Archivist 65, no. 2 (2002): 216-230.

Repair, Restore, Reimagine: Reparative Archival Description Forum. Presented by the Yale Reparative Archival Description Working Group, November 9, 2021. Includes panel talks with Jackson Huang (University of Michigan), Ricky Punzalan (University of Michigan School of Information), Margery N. Sly (Temple University), and lightning talks by Alison Clemens (Yale University), Eileen Dewitya (UNC Chapel Hill), and Emmanuelle Delmas-Glass (Yale Center for British Art).

Sutherland, Tonia. “Redescription as Restorative Justice.” Presented as part of the Louisiana Digital Library (LDL) as Data Online Speaker Series, November 19, 2020.

Tai, Jessica. “Cultural Humility as a Framework for Anti-Oppressive Archival Description.” Journal of Critical Library and Information Studies 3, no. 1 (2020).

Warren, Kellee E. "We Need These Bodies, but Not Their Knowledge: Black Women in the Archival Science Professions and their Connection to the Archives of Enslaved Black Women in the French Antilles.” Library Trends 64, no. 4 (Spring 2016): 776-794.

Wood, Stacy, Kathy Carbone, Marika Cifor, Anne Gilliland, and Ricardo Punzalan. “Mobilizing Records: Re-framing Archival Description to Support Human Rights." Archival Science 14 (2014): 397-419.