City of Edmonton Archives
Statement on Racist and Disturbing Language and Content
in Archival Collections and Descriptions
The City of Edmonton Archives (CEoA) has developed this statement regarding the language used in archival descriptions to meaningfully integrate equity and reconciliation work into the City’s archival practice. The changes reflect the staff’s on-going efforts to acknowledge known instances of discrimination that appear in archival records.
Archivists have been working on identifying and contextualizing problematic content, language and imagery found in our collections since 2017. This was partly in response to the Truth and Reconciliation (TRC) Commission’s Calls to Action, specifically those aimed at cultural and heritage institutions. Further work is on-going in alignment with the City of Edmonton’s commitments to inclusion and respect for diversity and the work of various groups in the City and, specifically, of the Anti-Racism Committee of City Council, as well as the Association of Canadian Archivists’ Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct.
Records held in archives often contain content, language and imagery that reflect the values and opinions of certain segments of the community at a particular time. They may include instances of racism, sexism, ableism or other forms of discrimination, today considered inappropriate and harmful. Archivists now acknowledge that there are gaps in the collections which would represent other segments of the community - and the lack of those voices and images are also harmful. The records which exist in archives were collected and maintained as a reflection of the era in which they were created and provide important historical context about the world around us. Although this can be upsetting, collecting and maintaining the integrity of these records lets researchers critically review and assess them as they see fit.
The City of Edmonton Archivists have begun the process of identifying known instances of problematic language and depictions in archival records. Staff won’t catch everything, nor will they try to, but every effort will be made to name and acknowledge readily apparent instances of discrimination, on a case by case basis.
It is important to note that related work will not be tied exclusively to problematic content. Creating more equitable and inclusive archival spaces means working to better identify records of interest to marginalized and equity-seeking communities. This includes more careful description of records that, for example, document the history of residential schools, settler colonialism and land tenure, as well as using current and accurate language when referencing First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. Seeking records which represent other communities for preservation is important. If you have suggestions for the archivists please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.