Princeton University Library May Add Trigger Warnings to ‘Offensive’ Archive Materials

2024-02-07 09:00:46

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Princeton library adds trigger warnings to ‘offensive’ archive materials

Princeton University soon may add more trigger warnings to its library archives after a focus group met to identify content that “marginalized communities” may find “harmful” or “offensive.”

In late January, library archivists hosted a focus group study about “harmful content” within the Princeton University Library’s online archives, according to a Jan. 16 post on the university’s Special Collections blog.

“As part of inclusive and reparative description efforts, archival staff in Special Collections have recently begun to implement harmful content mediation features as a way to mitigate harm for researchers, particularly those from marginalized communities, who encounter damaging, injurious, or otherwise hurtful description and/or collection content,” the post states.

Their group study aimed to listen and understand students’ thoughts about “harmful content” and the way that the library handles it, according to the blog.

“In particular, we are interested in hearing from those who identify as member(s) of marginalized communities as well as those who are interested in archives, archival research, and social justice,” the post states.

The researchers said they hope the study will help the library be more effective in moderating its archives for content that may hurt or offend people.

The Princeton Library has included content, or trigger, warnings on materials at least since 2022, according to its website.

One example of a warning appears on archived photographs of a bus burning incident in 1961 in Anniston, Alabama. The photos are previewed with the message: “Content warning: Photos/materials depict scenes of anti-Black racially-motivated violence.”

The library website also asks individuals to notify staff if they find “problematic language” in materials, because “terminology evolves over time” and “efforts to create respectful and inclusive descriptions must be ongoing.”

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Princeton University Library May Add Trigger Warnings to ‘Offensive’ Archive Materials


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