When Darren last wrote about the RAC’s Culturally Competent Description Campaign, we were wrapping up the Education Phase and moving toward the Action Phase. In the last update, Darren described how the CCD Education Campaign inspired the processing team to work together to change our mission statement. In the statement, our team recognized the bias in our collections and archival description and renewed our efforts to describe materials in an inclusive and respectful way.

After revising the mission statement, we needed to convey CCD values in our processing policies, practices, and procedures. The processing team approached this challenge by creating CCD processing guidelines, and ultimately, making major revisions to our processing manual.

The basis for the first draft of the CCD processing guidelines was a report written by RAC’s 2020 Selznick School Fellow, Christian Balistreri, at the completion of his fellowship in the summer of 2021 (read more about Christian’s work at the RAC here). The guidelines drew upon Christian’s work by utilizing many of his examples of problematic description, contextual archival notes for audiovisual collections, and his pre-description guiding statements and questions.

In the fall of 2021, we also started working on drafts of an internal form to report problematic description to go along with these guidelines. The concept of this form expanded beyond CCD work and will be used by staff to report inaccurate information as well as data display issues. The form allows staff to submit identifying information about where they found the concerning description, how much material is impacted by these issues, summaries of the concern, suggestions for addressing the problem, and a place to provide any further context. Staff will have the option to include their name in the form response, but they also have the option to submit anonymously.

By January 2022, we had a first draft of the guidelines and the form ready to share with Bob Battaly, Assistant Director for Processing. He made several suggestions that made the guidelines document stronger, including making the document less prescriptive by removing many examples, ensuring that our language within the document matched our intended outcomes, and clarifying processes involving reparative description.

Around this time, Bob began a separate project to revise the RAC processing manual to incorporate new procedures and update workflows, including major revisions to sections involving agent and subject records. As Bob changed the processing manual, he began to see how our CCD guidelines might fit within it and better serve our team as part of the manual itself. In the next round of revisions, he added language that aligned with the processing team’s updated mission statement. The changes served as a bridge to fully incorporate the CCD guidelines into the manual. The processing team met to discuss the CCD guidelines and the manual, and the team’s suggestions were added as well. Upon our team’s approval, the documents were merged, and culturally competent description values are now reflected throughout the processing manual. After completion of the final review process, the manual is available on the RAC’s documentation site.

In terms of next steps in the CCD action campaign, we will be releasing the Archival Description Concern Form for internal use by staff and working toward a collection audit to address problematic description in our collections utilizing our newly revised processing manual.

Stay tuned for more updates!