An exploration into archival descriptions of LGBTQ materials

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While traditional archives have successfully diversified collecting scopes to include materials from marginalized communities, archivists have yet to examine whether the descriptions of these materials appropriately represent the communities of origin. In an effort to determine how discoverable LGBTQ collections are and if the terms used to describe LGBTQ individuals might be inaccurate and possibly harmful to the LGBTQ community, this article compares terms used by LGBTQ history project Web sites to describe gender and sexual identities to terms used in traditional archives to portray those same identities. This comparison reveals that the terms in finding aids are general and in some cases outdated versus the diverse and modern language that appears on LGBTQ history project Web sites. The article ends with recommendations to explore collaborations with the LGBTQ community through personal relationships, creating subject guides, and providing an avenue for those viewing finding aids to suggest improvements to reconcile those differences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-83
Number of pages19
JournalAmerican Archivist
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2018


  • Access
  • Archival description
  • Community archives
  • Finding aids
  • Identity and language
  • Minority stress


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