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Making space for marginalized artists, authors, and creators in our records.

Ethical Cataloging Statement

Cultural heritage organizations around the world continually reevaluate their practices in order to foster inclusion and more accurately describe the people and cultures represented in their collections. We acknowledge that the language we use to catalog and describe our materials needs improvement. Standardized vocabularies, such as those managed by the Library of Congress or the Getty Research Institute, are constantly reviewed and updated to expand representation and correct biases. But we still sometimes lack authorized terms to accurately capture the experiences of women, people of color, members of the LGBTQ community, or artists from non-Western countries. And some existing terms might use outdated language that we now understand to be harmful. 

Many of our records are missing information about an artist’s race, gender, and culture. This makes it difficult for us to determine which or how many of our resources pertain to underrepresented groups. It is our responsibility to prevent artists from marginalized cultures from being misrepresented, overlooked, or forgotten in our collections.

We are keeping abreast of ethical cataloging practices within the scholarly community and confronting and rectifying problems in our records when they arise. We commit to maintaining transparency regarding our policies and procedures. We invite community input and welcome your feedback. Please let us know if you encounter offensive or harmful language or if you have concerns about representation in our finding aids, catalog records, digital collections, exhibitions, publications, social media, or elsewhere. Email us at or call 215-684-7650. 

Statement as of April 2021


Archives for Black Lives in Philadelphia (A4BLiP)
A volunteer-run organization comprising a loose association of archivists, librarians, and allied professionals in the area responding to the issues raised by the Black Lives Matter movement.

Protocols for Native American Archives
This document identifies best practices for culturally responsive care and use of American Indian material held by non-tribal organization

A Progressive's Style Guide
Guidelines published by the SumOfUs organization regarding how to combat discriminatory language, seek out information when unsure, and use examples that reflect a broad range of identites and perspectives.

Curated Resources on Diversity, Inclusion, Accessibility and Equity for Libraries

Voices in the Library Panel from the American Philosophical Society's Past, Present and Future of Libraries Conference (2018)

Recent Activities

  • Creating or enhancing records for African American artists held in the museum's collection in Wikidata (record set) and the Library of Congress' Name Authority File. 
    • Using our library collection to enrich available metadata for these artists.
    • Identifying gaps in collection coverage and making recommendations for collection development.
  • Updating agent records in ArchivesSpace for people whose names are recorded as "Mrs. [Husband's Name]"
    • We have updated the records to include the women's full names, maiden names, birth and death dates, and link to authority records when possible in order to give them an identity separate from their husband.
    • Example: Peaches Browning was formerly recorded as "Browning, Edward, Mrs." as the main form of her name. We have now modified it to have her authorized name as the main form, with her married and maiden names as alternate names. 
  • Auditing finding aids and creating agent records for people who are represented in the collections
    • We are reviewing our finding aids for harmful or problematic language, using guidelines such as the Anti-Racist Descriptions Resources created by Archives for Black Lives in Philadelphia. 
    • We are creating agent records to give voice to people who appear in our archival collections and create better access to our materials through people's names.