Campus News

University Libraries releases guide to conscious editing for finding aids, cataloging records

The guide compiles practices that staff at the Wilson Special Collections Library have refined as they update, edit and create new archival finding aids.

Wilson Library
(Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

University Libraries has released its Guide to Conscious Editing at Wilson Special Collections Library.

The guide compiles practices that staff at the Wilson Special Collections Library have refined as they update, edit and create new archival finding aids. Finding aids are documents that describe the contents of archival collections. They help researchers identify materials of potential interest.

“Conscious editing is an ethos of care that we are using when we write about materials in the Library,” said archivist Dawne Lucas, who contributed to and helped finalize the guide. “It’s a way to be inclusive and make sure that collections are available and approachable to everyone – not just established scholars, but also students, genealogists and members of the community.”

Specialists at Carolina have been building, organizing and describing archival collections for more than a century. Lucas said finding aids written in the past sometimes contain language that may be offensive or demeaning, or that can mislead researchers.

“Some of that language might be blatant racial slurs, or language that would today be considered insulting to groups of people,” said Lucas. “It might be an omission of information. For example, we have finding aids that went on at length about the accomplishments of a white family, but never acknowledged the people they enslaved.”

Learn more about the guide.