Statement on Harmful Content and Archival Description

The collections in the Research Library and Archives at the Delaware Historical Society (DHS) include images, manuscripts, and other historical records that reflect the social and political conditions at the time of their creation. We acknowledge that our catalogs and digital collections contain language and/or images that are racist, sexist, homophobic, colonialist, or otherwise offensive in ways that may cause harm to those who view them. This language is often found in archival description created over many decades by creators of collection material, previous collection owners, or DHS staff after acquisition. It can also result from the use of standardized terms, such as names and subjects, including those maintained by the Library of Congress. While these standardized subject headings facilitate easier catalog searching for our researchers, we recognize that the language is sometimes outdated and harmful.

The Delaware Historical Society is committed to creating archival description and metadata that is inclusive and respectful of our users and the individuals and communities represented in the collections we steward. To address the use of damaging or offensive language, DHS is developing a plan to amend harmful archival description, preserve original descriptive context, and compile a set of best practices for routine description work. Since language and terminology evolve over time, these efforts will be ongoing and adapted as necessary.

As DHS develops the plan that will guide this essential work, we welcome and encourage feedback from our user community. If you are concerned about any of the materials presented in either our digital collections or our collections catalog, have identified offensive description in a specific collection, or have suggestions for remediating harmful language, please contact us at