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Special Collections & Archives

Statement on historical language in the collections

Statement on Harmful Language in Catalogue Description: Special Collections and Rare Books

Maynooth University’s Special Collections & Archives aim to describe special collections and archival materials in an accurate and informative manner that is inclusive and respectful to the individuals and communities who create, use, and are represented in the collections we care for. Some of the materials in our holdings contain offensive, derogatory or harmful language. Our catalogue and/or archival descriptions may also include historical language of their time-periods that by today's standards may be considered racist, sexist, or otherwise harmful to racialised and marginalised populations.

We acknowledge that description is not neutral, nor are the individuals who create it, and what constitutes appropriate description varies with context, time, and the views of the description creator. 

We are committed to updating and revising our descriptive language in relation to: 

  • identifying instances of racism, sexism, ableism and other forms of discrimination 
  • proposing changes and replacing inappropriate language introduced during legacy descriptive practices 
  • researching how communities describe themselves and using contemporary/current language respectful to the people and events reflected in our holdings  

If you encounter language in finding aids, catalogue records of archival holdings, digitised collections, exhibitions, etc., that you find problematic, offensive or harmful, or if you have questions or concerns, we welcome your feedback. Please email


This statement was adapted from those of Princeton University Library, Stanford Libraries, Temple University Libraries, UBC, U Waterloo & Simon Fraser University Library. It was (last updated) on 2023-03-30.