Statement on potentially harmful content

We work to tackle offensive content in our collections. We are aware that a number of entries in our online catalogue contain either language or imagery which is potentially upsetting. As we do not wish for anyone to feel unwelcome while using our catalogue or collections, we are working to either contextualise the offensive content or otherwise reduce the offence caused.

We are not planning to remove or replace offensive content from our catalogue. It is important that this historical evidence remains accessible, that society is aware of hidden histories, and that relevant communities can accurately track their heritage. Offensive language or imagery often derives from the time that the document, book or object was created. In instances where offensive language has been used in cataloguing in the past and is not on the original item, we will update it.

This is an ongoing process. Below are some of the steps we are currently undertaking:

  • Surveying our collections and catalogue descriptions to identify potentially offensive content.
  • Involving relevant community groups and donors in these processes when appropriate.
  • Altering entries in our online catalogue to remove offensive terms or where this is not possible (i.e. it is in the original content) to make any offensive terms less immediately visible.
  • Working with partners to enable similar alterations to other websites on which details of our collections appear so that harmful content is flagged for users on their first engagement with it.
  • On relevant web pages, indicating which collections contain high levels of offensive content and providing advice on searching such collections.
  • In instances where offensive language has been used in cataloguing in the past and has been changed, keeping a copy of the former catalogue description.
  • Engaging with professional networks that are active in this area.

We also require your help with this. If you are searching our catalogue and encounter offensive content which is not properly contextualised, please let us know by contacting us. We can then add this to the list of catalogue descriptions that we need to work on.

This statement is due to be reviewed annually.

June 2023