Historical Context Statement
University Archives makes a wide variety of historical resources openly available to faculty, staff, students, alumni, researchers, and the public. To make materials searchable and accessible, archivists must use language to describe these resources. We know that language matters, and we know that historical context is important, too.We are providing the information on this page to explain how content is described and encourage users to analyze historical resources rather than simply judge them.
Language used in Archival Description and Finding Aids
The Archives strives to provide accurate descriptions of historical materials following archival standards such as Describing Archives: A Content Standard (DACS) and incorporating Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) and other controlled vocabularies into our finding aids. Language used in archival descriptions is usually taken directly from the materials to provide historical accuracy. While the Archives is aware that some of the language used may be outdated or otherwise objectionable, we feel it is important to provide authentic descriptions of historical resources.
When creating original descriptive data for materials (such as photographic images) that do not have formal titles or existing descriptions, the Archives consciously works to use inclusive language.
Researchers with suggestions for how we can improve our descriptions can let us know via the Ask an Archivist form. We value opportunities to learn how to incorporate more inclusive language into our descriptions and finding aids.
Putting the Past in Context
The Archives offers broad public access to a variety of historical materials. Some of these materials may include content that some viewers find objectionable, including images, language, and the presence of negative stereotypes. It is essential to remember that these materials should be viewed in the context of the relevant time period in which they were created.
We encourage researchers to put historical materials into context by learning more about the time period events surrounding the creation of those materials.
According to the dictionary by Merriam-Webster, the word context is defined as:
- the parts of a discourse that surround a word or passage and can throw light on its meaning
- the interrelated conditions in which something exists or occurs
There are many resources to assist researchers with contextualizing a historical source. Here are a few that researchers may find useful:
- The Historical Association (UK) has a list of questions to consider when putting sources into historical context.
- Carleton College offers a guide for How to Analyze a Primary Source.
- An article titled The Importance of Historic Context in Analysis and Interpretation by Grace Fleming, a senior academic advisor at Georgia Southern University, provides examples of how historical context can help readers understand meaning in history and literature.
Texas State believes that freedom of thought, innovation and creativity are fundamental characteristics of a community of scholars. To promote such a learning environment, the university has a special responsibility to seek diversity, to promote inclusion, to instill a global perspective in its students, and to nurture sensitivity, dialogue and mutual respect.
Discrimination against or harassment of individuals on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, age, disability, veterans' status, gender identity or expression are inconsistent with the purposes of the university.