The Special Collections Department at Bryn Mawr College is reconsidering the histories of colonialism and racism that have influenced the formation and presentation of our collections of historical, cultural, and artistic material. This work is both proactive based on our professional and ethical commitments and responsive to calls from the community for greater focus on these issues in Special Collections. The effects of colonialism and racism in the collections are part of the historical and present-day forms of racism and inequity at Bryn Mawr College that we are committed to addressing, foregrounding, and remediating in the department and at the College as a whole.
We are actively working to address these legacies through increased transparency about the collections, a recognition and redressing of potentially harmful descriptive language, strengthened policies and practices around just methods for acquiring and stewarding objects, and a focus on expanding the range of voices preserved in our collections. See our related blog post.
Our work is informed by the efforts of professional colleagues beyond Bryn Mawr, who are undertaking similar efforts to address legacies of colonialism and racism in museums and libraries at their institutions. A list of related resources is included in the statement.
We began working on this document and gathering input from BMC stakeholders in the summer of 2020. We are sharing it before the end of the academic year to encourage reflection over the summer and as a starting point for community-wide conversations that we will facilitate during the upcoming year. The document is by no means complete or final, just as this work in Special Collections is concerted and ongoing. We will continue to edit the document and adjust our goals, as we identify additional ways in which we can address and confront forms of racism and inequity in Special Collections. We welcome your input and guidance in this ongoing process.