Researchers using these collections will encounter direct quotations or detailed descriptions of original documents that use inappropriate or harmful language to describe persons and events. This includes language that is racist, stereotypical, misogynistic, homophobic, or ableist.
While the Boston Public Library strives to catalog its collections in an equitable and inclusive manner, we recognize that this has not always been the case. Many of these collection descriptions are decades old and reflect the prevailing biases of the time periods in which they were created, along with the biases of the librarians, staff members, and affiliates who created them. Descriptions of materials in these collections — including titles, subject headings, and summary notes — sometimes contain harmful language and prioritize access to information about white, male creators, while deprioritizing description and access to materials about women, and people of color.
Outdated descriptions still persist online because the access that they provide to primary source materials is uniquely valuable to the research community at large. Our efforts to repair outdated descriptions and to describe our collections in an equitable way are iterative and ongoing.