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Archives Department

Guide to the Archives Department of Boston Public Library's Special Collections

Addressing harmful language in our finding aids

Our finding aids describe historical materials that reflect the attitudes, ideas, and norms of the time periods and cultures in which they were created and may include direct quotations or detailed descriptions of original documents that use inappropriate or harmful language. While our staff strives for equitable and inclusive description, we recognize that this has not always been the case. Legacy finding aids may reflect the time periods in which they were created and the biases of the people who created them. These finding aids are available 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Our efforts to repair outdated descriptions and to describe our collections in an equitable way are iterative and ongoing.

For more information on harmful content in our collections, see Digital Commonwealth’s statement on harmful content. 

Help us improve our records!

We are always in the process of adding collection descriptions to and updating our current collection descriptions. Our finding aids have evolved over time in a range of formats; we are actively working to create more complete, equitable, and accessible collection descriptions.

Stack of typed documents with pencil edits on top page

Help us improve our finding aids! 

  • Have you spotted an error, typo, or something that is misidentified?
  • Have you identified language that is harmful, offensive, or misleading?
  • Have you found some confusing notes or organizational structures?

Let us know! Our goal is to describe collections to make them easier for you to use. Send us a note at Please include a link or reference to the online record.

Contact us & hours

Connect with BPL Archives staff!
  • Questions about archival collections?
  • Need help navigating
  • Want to help us by suggesting changes to our collection descriptions?

Reach out to BPL Archivists directly at
The Special Collections Reading Room is open for appointments.

To make an appointment to see archival materials in the Special Collections Reading Room, please see the Special Collections: Plan Your Research Visit website.

Archives Department
Boston Public Library
700 Boylston Street
Boston, Massachusetts 02116