About archives and manuscripts

Special Collections & Archives is in the process of transitioning to the Archives Database an online database for browsing  information about the literary and historical collections held by the department. Collections that have been migrated to the new database are browsable by following the links in the Find relevant collections section. Those that have yet to be (re)described and migrated to the new system have a placeholder page with a PDF of the finding aid attached.

Note: A finding aid is a description of the material in a collection or fonds, providing information about the context in which the materials were created and used. It includes a history of the creator; the dates, types, extent, and subjects of the materials; etc. A finding aid begins by describing the fonds as a whole and then moves to smaller groups like series and files.

Language in archival descriptions

Records held by Special Collections & Archives are historical in nature and contain language or depictions of people representative of their time. This includes problematic wording, cultural references, and stereotypes that are no longer used or appropriate today. Historical language has been maintained in its original form, in keeping with archival practice, to preserve the context in which the records were created. This approach, while potentially upsetting, allows for the critical assessment and questioning of historical material by contemporary researchers.

While the language of the record creators has been maintained, Special Collections & Archives staff understand the impact language and images have both on researchers accessing our collections and on the perpetuation of systemic and cultural bias. As a result, staff are actively working to:

  • replace inappropriate language introduced during legacy descriptive practices
  • identify and name instances of racism, sexism, ableism and other forms of discrimination
  • use current language that respects the people and events reflected in our collections during the (re)description of records

Special Collections & Archives staff view this manner of providing and expanding on the context of problematic records to be in keeping with the University of Waterloo’s Principles of Inclusivity and Policy 33 - Ethical Behaviour, as well as the Association of Canadian Archivists’ Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct and the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.