Yolo County Library

Yolo County Archives and Historical Collection Statement on Potentially Harmful Content

The Yolo County Archives (YCA) and Yolo County Historical Collection (YCHC) contain materials and objects that may be harmful or difficult to view. Our repositories collect and preserve historic records, as well as artifacts from different cultures and time periods, in order to make them available to the public. As a result, some of the materials presented here may reflect outdated, biased, offensive, and possibly violent views and opinions due to pervasive systemic intolerance.

Frequently Asked Questions

What harmful or difficult content may be found in YCA or YCHC?

Some items may:

    • reflect racist, sexist, or culturally insensitive opinions or attitudes
    • be discriminatory towards, or exclude, diverse views
    • include graphic content of historical events
    • demonstrate bias and exclusion in institutional collecting and digitization practices

Why do YCA and YCHC make potentially harmful content available?

    • YCA and YCHC collect, preserve, and make material available to the public as part of the historic record, which may include depictions and documentation of people experiencing trauma and harm.
    • YCA and YCHC staff seek to balance the preservation of this history with sensitivity to how these materials are presented to and perceived by users.

How is this material described, and why are some of the terms used in the descriptions harmful? 

    • Library staff, archivists, and curators choose what language to use when describing materials. Some of these descriptions were written many years ago, using language that was accepted at the time.
    • Library staff, archivists, and curators often re-use language provided by creators or former owners of the material. This can provide important context but can also reflect biases and prejudices.
    • Library staff, archivists, and curators often use a standardized set of terms, such as the Library of Congress Subject Headings, to describe materials. Some of these terms are outdated, offensive, or insensitive.
    • Communities with less access to, and privilege within, libraries and archives have had less control over how they are represented and described.
    • Library staff, archivists, and curators sometimes make mistakes or use poor judgement.

How can I report harmful content?

Please note: This process applies only to language found within descriptions of materials in database records or language used within displays or exhibits, not to the content of the original historical records. YCA and YCHC do not alter the content of the original records.

    • You can help us understand this issue and find solutions by reporting harmful content by sending us either a downloaded and filled out form or the following information via email* archives@yolocounty.org:
        • The title of the object or archival collection
        • The object number from the database record OR the URL for the object’s location on the website
        • The type of material (photograph, vase, document, etc.)
        • A quote of the specific language that you feel is harmful
        • Suggested alternative language if you have some
    • After reviewing the report, YCA and YCHC staff will determine whether they will change or remove the content.
        • Staff weigh potential harm against considerations including accurate preservation of the historical record, professional best practices, and allocation of limited resources.
    • Staff will reply via email within 30 calendar days to provide an update of the action(s) taken.
    • YCA and YCHC will use all reports of harmful content to better understand the issue and educate other librarians and archivists. YCA and YCHC are committed to working to assess and update descriptions that are harmful.

*You can also mail your hardcopy form to:

Yolo County Archives
226 Buckeye St.
Woodland, CA 95695