Statement on Harmful Content and Inclusive Description
Lesbian and Gay Archives of New Zealand: Te Pūranga Takatāpui o Aotearoa (LAGANZ)
Libraries and archives like LAGANZ collect materials from different cultures and time periods to preserve and make available the historical record. As a result, collection materials such as those presented and described on this website may reflect, for example, transphobic, homophobic, racist or colonialist views that may be harmful and difficult to view.
We collect, preserve and make available for research the records, creative works and personal papers of LGBTTIFQ+ people and organisations in Aotearoa New Zealand. LGBTTIFQ+ means lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, takatāpui, fa'afafine, intersex or queer and includes any same-sex attracted, transgender or intersex members of any indigenous community of the Pacific. Material has been deposited, donated or purchased for the collections.
The Archives are owned by a community trust and managed by volunteers. We have been collecting material since 1977.
The content of LAGANZ collections explores the lived experiences of LGBTTIFQ+ people. Material may include depictions and records of people experiencing trauma and harm. Librarians and archivists must balance preservation of this history with sensitivity to how it is presented to users.
Description of material and use of some harmful descriptions
Librarians and archivists choose what language to use when describing materials. Some of these descriptions were written many years ago, using language that was accepted at the time.
Librarians and archivists often re-use language provided by creators, people featuring in the material themselves or by former owners of the material. This can provide important context, but can also reflect biases and prejudices.
Librarians and archivists often use a standardised set of terms. At LAGANZ we have applied terms from the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) to describe published materials, and the LAGANZ Subject Thesaurus (last refined in the 1980s) to describe both published and unpublished material. Some of the terms in these classification systems are outdated, offensive, or insensitive.
Communities with less access to and privilege within libraries and archives have had less control over how they are represented and described.
Librarians and archivists sometimes make mistakes or use poor judgement.
We are committed to working to assess and update descriptions that are harmful.
Outdated terms applied to material do help us administratively in the short- to medium-term to identify the collection items that are a priority for updated descriptions, and they also remain as indicators of social use in a historical context.
We envisage that the most harmful terms may be hidden from a casual user of the archives' online finding aids, but administrators of the archives and researchers will have managed access to the outdated or offensive terms when required.
What are we doing to address this problem
We are informing users and volunteers about the presence and origin of harmful content.
LAGANZ's Metadata Working Group is leading LAGANZ's research into the problem of description of harmful content. This involves listening to users, working with other institutions and researchers, experimenting with solutions, and sharing our findings with each other.
We are particularly following the mahi of:
We will work directly with misrepresented and underrepresented communities to improve the ways they are represented.
We are revising descriptions and standardised sets of descriptive terms (LCSH or LAGANZ Subject Thesaurus), supplementing description with more respectful terms drawn from other controlled vocabularies, or creating new standardised terms to describe materials.
We are incorporating macrons into te reo Māori terms and utilising correct scripts for languages that do not use the Latin alphabet.
We welcome your feedback
If you encounter language that you find discriminatory or offensive in our research guides, catalogue records, digitised collections, website, exhibitions or elsewhere, or if you have questions about our metadata work, please do contact us.
Consider helping us to implement these changes!
Participation in the LAGANZ Metadata Working Group is open to all LGBTTIFQ+ community members and allies. We do ask that members respect the kaupapa of the group and of the Archives.
This statement will continue to evolve as we incorporate feedback and make progress.
In preparing this Statement we have drawn from the mahi of other institutions. In particular: Black Women's Suffrage, Duke University Collections Services Division, Princeton University Library, Drexel University Libraries (United States), and Western University Libraries] (Canada).
Last updated: 24 Mar 2023
Lesbian and Gay Archives of New Zealand (LAGANZ) | Te Pūranga Takatāpui o Aotearoa