Special Collections and University Archives is guided by the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion as we fulfill our mission to preserve and share the history of Charlotte while supporting the educational and research missions of J. Murrey Atkins Library and UNC Charlotte. We have taken action in the following areas of our work, but we know creating an inclusive and equitable environment is a continual process.
Collection development and community engagement
We consider these two activities to be intertwined. We work to expand the archival record to be representative of the diversity of Charlotte and UNC Charlotte, and we do this by engaging with individuals and community organizations on their terms.
Ways we engage include accepting donations of materials and supporting community-driven projects. These projects may involve conducting and preserving oral history interviews, digitizing community materials, or supporting community archives. In order to create equity, we endeavor to steer the limited time and funding we have available towards connecting with communities who are underrepresented in the archival record.
Metadata, cataloging, and descriptive practices
The descriptive standards and vocabularies that libraries and archives have traditionally used in creating cataloging records and finding aids are a reflection of the historical biases and systematic intolerance shown towards marginalized groups in the larger culture and include much offensive and outdated terminology and other language.
As part of an effort to implement antiracist and inclusive descriptive practices in our work, we are performing an intensive audit of our legacy metadata and changing harmful language where possible, with a particular focus on collections that document the lives of communities of color and other marginalized groups. Central to this effort is a dialogue with these communities on campus and beyond who can offer needed insight and perspectives on how our descriptive practices can be adjusted to better reflect and serve our diverse constituencies.
As a unit that provides research services to the community, we strive to create a welcoming environment for researchers and treat them equitably. We are always open to reevaluating our practices if necessary to ensure a safe space for researchers as we also consider the needs for the security of the collections in our care.
We also acknowledge the physical limitations of our space as the elevator to access the reading room is not ADA compliant. Atkins Library has advocated for the elevators to be renovated for ADA compliance, and this project has recently been funded. As we await the completion of this project, our practice is to arrange with any researcher to bring materials to a location in the building that is accessible to them, including the Assistive Technology Room (See our Accessibility page.)
Teaching and Learning
As a unit that provides teaching services to the UNC Charlotte community and beyond, we strive to highlight the stories of underrepresented communities through the collections and materials that we use during instruction. We currently use our local collections to tell the stories of systematic oppression in Charlotte, highlighting documents created by and about marginalized people.
To encourage students to understand the power they have to improve the campus community, we seek to highlight student records that showcase how students organized, protested, and engaged with the administration to change unjust and inequitable policies. We are continually seeking feedback from faculty and students as to what stories they want to be shared in the reading room classroom and work with them to provide access to stories of communities important to them.