Statement on Language in Archival Descriptions

Records held by Northern BC Archives & Special Collections are historical in nature and contain language or depictions of people representative of their time. This includes problematic wording, cultural references, and stereotypes that are no longer used or appropriate today. Historical language has been maintained in its original form, in keeping with archival practice, to preserve the context in which the records were created. This approach, while potentially upsetting, allows for the critical assessment and questioning of historical material by contemporary researchers.

While the language of the record creators has been maintained, Northern BC Archives & Special Collections understands the impact language and images have both on researchers accessing our collections and on the perpetuation of systemic and cultural bias. As a result, Northern BC Archives & Special Collections is actively working to:

  • replace inappropriate language introduced during legacy descriptive practices
  • identify and name instances of racism, sexism, ableism, and other forms of discrimination
  • use current language that respects the people and events reflected in our collections during the (re)description of records

Northern BC Archives & Special Collections views this manner of providing and expanding on the context of problematic records to be in keeping with the University of Northern British Columbia's Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan and Harassment and Discrimination Policy, as well as the Association of Canadian Archivists' Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct, the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, and the Reconciliation Framework for Canadian Archives.

Please contact us if you encounter a problematic description in our archival database. Staff will review the description and update it in a way that balances the preservation of original context with an awareness of the effect of language on our users. Revisions may include providing additional context and/or replacing problematic terminology. We welcome your feedback.