The Society's archival materials constitute a historical record and may contain unsettling images, language, or other objectionable content that does not reflect contemporary social and/or cultural views or the Society’s current values. Staff are implementing practices to address troubling or even potentially harmful content while retaining authenticity of the original record. We are deeply committed to expanding our cataloging practices to reflect inclusive and equitable archival practices.
At the National Geographic Society we believe in using the power of science, exploration, education and storytelling to illuminate and protect the wonders of the world. The Society has long told the story of our human journey through grant funding, cartography, photography, filmmaking and more. Reflecting more fully on the Society’s story means recognizing the roles colonialism, racism, and sexism played in who was allowed to be an Explorer, who was able to tell stories, and whose stories were told. The Society recognizes the importance of acknowledging these parts of our past so that we may chart a more equitable and inclusive future.
Within the Society’s Special Collections, our mission is to ensure that our records provide an inclusive and authentic representation of our history, our activities, and our story. While it is our intention to accurately reflect history, we also want to acknowledge that users may encounter troubling and even potentially harmful content within our collections.
Throughout the Society’s history, it has produced materials and collections that bear witness to its role as one of the leading scientific and educational organizations in the world. This content includes well-known products like the magazine, books, and films, as well as educational materials, documentation of exhibits and live presentations, and records related to grant making, field research, and administration of the Society. These objects form the basis of original research, exhibition, and interpretation.
The archival record generally and the archival records of National Geographic Society in particular may contain gaps. Individuals and groups may be unrepresented, underrepresented, or misrepresented. Sometimes this lack of representation or misrepresentation is inadvertent, but often it reflects decisions and practices of content creators, librarians and archivists past and present, as well as larger patterns of exclusion and marginalization at National Geographic Society and throughout society.
Some items may:
National Geographic collects, preserves, and presents these materials as part of the historic record. Librarians and archivists seek to balance the preservation of this history with sensitivity to how these materials are presented to and perceived by users.
Our key guiding principles are to:
Some of the ways we are approaching this work include:
The Society’s archival materials constitute a historical record and may contain unsettling images, language, or other objectionable content that does not reflect contemporary social and/or cultural views or the Society’s current values. Staff are implementing practices to address troubling or even potentially harmful content while retaining authenticity of the original record. We are deeply committed to expanding our cataloging practices to reflect inclusive and equitable archival practices.
If you would like to share additional knowledge regarding items in the catalog, please notify us through this Google form. We appreciate your feedback and your interest in the National Geographic Society’s history and activities.
Our records may include assumptions about gender or other demographic characteristics. We are committed to questioning assumptions in order to better reflect the people and resources we describe.
The names we attach to places can reflect the white-centering that permeates record keeping. We are examining how to better acknowledge Indigenous and marginalized peoples in our collections.
We are creating an internal glossary of DEI metadata terminology to supplement our cataloging to improve and aid search results.
Standardized authority files, such as the Library of Congress Subject Headings, may contain outdated, offensive, or non-inclusive terms. We are exploring ways to address this through keeping aware of and implementing vocabularies from alternative subject and genre thesauri.
We welcome the opportunity to enrich our collection descriptions through collaborations with researchers and communities with expertise on content material.
We believe we can only achieve our mission when we actualize our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in every aspect of our work.
As an organization guided by science and innovation, we recognize that research shows the very best ideas result from teams with a wide range of backgrounds and experiences working together effectively to harness the creative power and ingenuity of diversity.
Championing all voices and ensuring members of the Society community are empowered to bring their unique perspective and story to bear on our mission work is critical to pushing us to a brighter future. National Geographic's DEI Story and Guiding Principles.
Staff are implementing practices to address troubling or potentially harmful language as part of routine cataloging work. In addition, we encourage users to provide feedback to help us tackle this issue. We recognize that terminology evolves over time and that efforts to create respectful and inclusive descriptions must be ongoing.
If you would like to bring our attention to potentially harmful content and/or share additional knowledge regarding items in the catalog, please notify us through this Google form. We appreciate your feedback and your interest in the National Geographic Society’s history and activities.
Many readings and resources, including statements by fellow archives and libraries have inspired and guided our efforts. DPLA's Statement on Potentially Harmful Content was particularly helpful in formatting and establishing this page. While there are no current national archival standards for remediating potentially harmful language, we took action outlined by suggestions and examples in the following resources and more:
Banner Photo Credit: Renan Ozturk.