2020-6-24 Meeting notes - Open call on how ArchivesSpace can amplify and support efforts around antiracism and inclusion


Jun 24, 2020 – 2-3pm ET (11-12pm PT)

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How can ArchivesSpace amplify and support efforts around antiracism and inclusion?

This open call will be devoted to a discussion of ways ArchivesSpace can support and amplify efforts around antiracism and inclusion, and how ArchivesSpace itself can be more inclusive.  We also want to consider how we can incorporate these considerations more organically into our ongoing programming and our users' experience of ArchivesSpace. 

The running list for discussion is at https://docs.google.com/document/d/1b-GlCSObflqZufIiN4dJ__hlppwPloHXzytsUEVlZp4/edit?usp=sharing. Please feel free to add directly to this list by commenting on the document or share your thoughts, questions, and suggestions during the call.

A copy of the slides used in today’s call can be found at:

We seek to provide a welcoming, inclusive, and safe community experience for everyone and adhere to Code4Lib’s CodeofConduct4Lib. The full text of the code of conduct is available at: http://bit.ly/coc4lib.

The call was not recorded and the chat log will not be made available.


The purpose of this call and the decisions and actions that will be made following this call is to identify ways ArchivesSpace can support and amplify efforts around antiracism and inclusion, and how ArchivesSpace itself can be more inclusive. The notes below contain the suggestions made both during the open call and via the google document circulated before the call. Some ideas may be fairly simple to implement, others may require consideration cooperation and discussion across the community, including the involvement of the ArchivesSpace Governance Board. This list will evolve over time and there will be many other opportunities to generate ideas and take action.

A fundamental principle of ArchivesSpace is that those who can contribute, whether financially or with their time and talents, do so in order to make what ArchivesSpace makes possible possible for everyone. That core principle is essential to ArchivesSpace being sustainable as a program, application, and community, but there are different ways we as a community can bring people in to broaden the conversation, open up possibilities, and be a force for more good. ArchivesSpace is committed to remaining free to download and use and makes almost all of its resources freely available. ArchivesSpace’s member model supports the continuing development of the application and services and resources that support the community that uses it. Organizations that elect to become ArchivesSpace members receive member benefits including access to the Help Center, listservs and technical support. ArchivesSpace membership ensures that the ArchivesSpace application is sustainable and available to all archives and archivists.

Ideas related to the ArchivesSpace program and community

  • Subsidize membership for some grassroots organizations, community archives, tribal archives, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs).

    • The questions of how this would be supported or sustainable was raised in the meeting. This decision would be made at the board level but these subsidized memberships might be able to be offered within our already existing member infrastructure to not cause undo stress on the community, program team and budget.

    • Community colleges are also under represented in archives and could be another potential type of organization to subsidize membership for.

    • It was noted that these kinds of memberships should be offered “without strings”

  • Subsidize or offer assistance with self-hosted or hosted ArchivesSpace installations for some grassroots organizations, community archives, tribal archives, HBCUs and HSIs.

    • It was noted in the meeting that the technological barrier for many small archives is as difficult to surmount as the need to understand archival practice/theory.

  • Explore an alternative business/hosting model where Lone Arrangers/low budget shops can use a cloud-based centralized database to create and host their finding aids. Maybe a free version which can enable up to 5 finding aids to be uploaded, and incrementally pay for use/storage? This way, they can focus on content and not nuts-and-bolts of maintaining the database.

  • Consider consortial membership to allow less resourced institutions to share financial and infrastructure commitments

  • Develop a training toolkit for grassroots organizations, community archives, and tribal archives that want to use ArchivesSpace, or those that want to help them do so.

    • Community generated training or documentation for smaller organizations or grass roots organizations created by larger organizations or those organizations with more resources for training and development.

    • Create a community wide incentive to create training for archivists so that they can help communities when help is needed. Kind of like a rapid response research team.

  • Regularly spotlight the work our members do in their communities. We could start with a monthly feature in our updates and on our blog/Twitter channels.

  • Work with organizations and groups that help others understand ethical collecting and archival description to identify best practices for using (or not using) ArchivesSpace and related barriers in the application.

  • Remove barriers to accessing User Documentation and provide greater diversity in the examples used in documentation.

  • Archival organizations continue to struggle with limited staffing, resource and money. Community-led initiatives to encourage antiracism and inclusion work will go a long way to advance the community’s work in general and help spur the work of individual community members. ArchivesSpace is one tool used by archivists and could partner with other archival organizations and tools that are undertaking similar work within the archival community to help the wider community.

Ideas related to the ArchivesSpace application

  • Convene a working group to examine unconscious bias and barriers to entry in the ArchivesSpace application, particularly related to language and privacy.

  • Convene a working group to develop a thesaurus or glossary and create examples of antiracist descriptive practice.

  • Develop a scaffolding or infrastructure to allow for redescription work or antiracist description work to be easier within ArchivesSpace

    • Make it easier to generate reports and exports that would facilitate redescription work.

  • Explicitly acknowledge in the application that there is inherent bias in the application and make it clear which who can access records and fields in ArchivesSpace and how.

  • Allow for versioning of all record types in ArchivesSpace to document the changes made when doing redescription work and way to provide the context for why the change was made. Context is important.

  • Create a mechanism to provide trigger or content warnings at both the resource and archival object level.

  • Provide a mechanism to allow users to submit a correction/edit to a finding aid or annotate finding aids. (Page 6 from this guide: https://archivesforblacklives.files.wordpress.com/2019/10/ardr_final.pdf )

  • Allow for right-to-left (RTL) scripts, ideally bi-directional text.

  • Eliminate coding terminology that echoes racist language such as "master" and "blacklist/whitelist".

  • Enable the use of Traditional Knowledge (TK) labels on indigenous cultural heritage materials. https://localcontexts.org/tk-labels/ 

  • Explore ways to better support integration with Mukurtu (https://mukurtu.org/) for those organizations using both Mukurtu and ArchivesSpace or needing to exchange data with other organizations that use one or the other.

  • Provide mechanisms to better support non-LCSH authority term imports.

  • Add fields for variant terms and a function that allows us to make the variant term the local display term when the LCSH term is deemed harmful. Something similar to the agent module working being done in ArchivesSpace.

    • Consider expanding the subjects module.

  • Provide guidance on which fields to use for disclaimers on material containing racist, sexist, and offensive language or content.

Ideas related to the ArchivesSpace governance

  • Have representation from Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Hispanic Serving Institutions on the Governance Board or create a slot on the Governance Board for a representative from HBCUs/HSIs.

    • ArchivesSpace currently has one representative on the UAC from a HBCU and has not had any representation on the Governance board from a HBCU.

  • Provide one-on-one mentoring to potential and new Governance Board representatives to provide more support and/or a longer runway to service.

Resources submitted in the chat during the discussion:

  1. The program team will develop and disseminate a survey that allows users to anonymously submit feedback (but not rank or vote) on these ideas.