Descriptive Access - Language and Description
Baker Library has collected contemporary and archival materials since the founding of Harvard Business School in 1908. Over the decades, generations of archivists and librarians have chosen words and subjects to describe and catalog these collections. The language used in these descriptions continues to evolve over time. Words or phrases used in the past may now be considered outdated or even offensive, while individuals or subjects once thought too unimportant or tangential to mention are now described fully.
When describing or cataloging original materials for the first time, staff choose terms and subjects that describe the collections as we perceive them. We do our best to describe the collections accurately, fairly, and completely. We also make revisions or additions to existing descriptions when we become aware of issues or omissions.
For materials housed in folders or other items such as photographs and audiovisual materials, staff retain the creators’ own descriptive language, even if it reflects inherent biases or prejudices. Retaining the creators’ original title and language for these materials not only provides important details about the materials, but also preserves both the materials’ historical context and the creators’ point of view.
Users should be aware that they may encounter offensive or harmful content in the collections including offensive, misrepresentative or euphemistic language and terms used to describe individuals or communities.