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PACSCL Receives Funding for Harmful Language Audit

That great American poet, Bruce Springsteen, once said, “From small things big things one day come.”  Ignoring the larger context of the song, that phrase has been giving me the warm fuzzies because PACSCL just received a small grant from which big things will most definitely come.

PACSCL received a Strategic Growth Grant from the SAA (Society of American Archivists) Foundation to support a harmful language audit of the approximately 11,850 finding aids created by PACSCL member institutions that are accessible via the Philadelphia Area Archives portal. Entitled Excavating Bias: A Reparative Audit of Philadelphia Area Finding Aids, the work will be conducted by Chris Clement, formerly of the University of Pennsylvania, using an audit protocol developed at Duke University, as well as a lexicon of words against which titles, scope and content notes, subject headings and other descriptive content will be assessed.

The goals of this project are: 1) to provide each member institution with an overview of harmful language used in their descriptions; 2) to create a foundational set of data that may be used to support grant-funded projects in reparative description across member institutions, and 3) to start to build a structure of cross-collection assessment that will provide a case study in reparative audits.

To my knowledge, this audit will be the first to provide a geographic assessment of harmful language used in archival description.  Chris Clement will also tweak the Duke protocol to create an easily reusable audit process for PACSCL members.

As part of this project, PACSCL’s DEI Committee is drafting a survey to assess the current state of reparative description work among PACSCL members. 

We anticipate that draft reports will be ready for circulation by the end of the year.  If you have any questions about this project, please reach out to Beth Lander, Managing Director, at