Protocols for Describing and Managing Racially Offensive Archives

1:00pm - 5:00pm / Wednesday 9th May 2018 / Venue: Room G33 Gordon Stephenson Building
Type: Meeting / Category: Department / Series: Centre for Archive Studies
  • Suitable for: Attendance is open to all. Given the problematic lack of racial diversity in the UK archival profession, archivists and archives users from BME backgrounds are particularly encouraged to participate.
  • Admission: Admission is free. No registration required.
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UK archivists have been without guidance on how to describe and manage archives that contain racially offensive content, despite frequent discussions of the problem on list-servs and at conferences. The Liverpool University Centre for Archive Studies is convening a working meeting to explore the possibility of developing national best practice guidance on describing and managing racially offensive records.

Since 1995, the Australian and North American archival communities have developed protocols for the culturally sensitive management of archives about indigenous peoples. These protocols were informed by indigenous communities and indigenous archivists and other information professionals, and outline best practice for archival description and classification, governance and staffing of archives, and accessibility and use of records. The protocols recommend increased cultural sensitivity in professional practice and engagement with communities as ways to more appropriately serve indigenous communities, understand their needs and manage records about them.

While there is no comparable indigenous population in the UK, the impact of colonialism, the slave trade and significant periods of migration into the country have resulted in archives reflecting a diverse population and a history of oppression of certain racial groups. As a result, culturally sensitive archival description and management of such records must be a concern for UK archivists, particularly as efforts to diversify the UK’s archival workforce have not yet seen gains in racial diversity.

This meeting will consider how a set of protocols might be appropriate within the UK context and what form the protocols might take. Taking into account existing common practice and established archival theory, the meeting will investigate potential best practice methods for archival description of records that discuss individuals and communities using offensive racial language. We will also consider the political, emotional and reputational repercussions of broader archival practices such as acquisition and deaccessioning.

We will be live tweeting the conversation, and those who are not able to attend are encouraged to join in using #racistrecords


13:00 – Opening remarks (Arike Oke and Simon Demissie)
13:20 – Findings of research into the description of racially offensive records (Alicia Chilcott)
13:40 – User perspectives
14:00 – Discussion (Arike Oke and Simon Demissie)
17:00 – Close