Harmful Content Statement

Mexican American Art Since 1848 (MAAS1848) harvests digital records from libraries, archives, and museums across the United States. The items in MAAS1848 are acquired with descriptions that reflect the time, social context, and identities of the people who created the descriptions; this also introduces Eurocentric biases in the descriptions and cataloging.

The MAAS1848 portal aspires to improve discovery and access through the thoughtful use of language by applying the MAAS1848 Thesaurus to subject terms. We approach enhancement like scholars and activists reconsidering national monuments to enslavers. We understand that subject terms are not literally memorials—to remember—and monuments to celebrate, but they share in the ideologies of colonialism, racism, sexism, and capitalism that built monuments to enslavers. Our intentions are in solidarity with Black/African American and Indigenous communities resisting harmful memorial practices. 

The redress of historical inequities and injustices includes replacing racist and derogatory language and hiding biased language that assumes whiteness or masculinity as a default. We want to remember this traumatic history and the epistemologies it fostered by using a tool that hides the harmful content from users but allows the administrators of the portal to trace, analyze, and record the subject terms we ingested. As we redress harmful language, hidden lives and erased histories become discoverable for researchers and in the classroom. We also plan to share our mitigation plan with others as a decolonial practice of a politicized cultural memory that proposes a liberatory future. The mitigation plan can be found at https://rhizomes.umn.edu/methods.

MAAS1848 actively raises critical awareness of bias, privilege, and power, using an ethos of deliberate care to the assessment, creation, and refinement of descriptive archival texts. At the same time, we acknowledge that the content may reflect outdated, biased, and offensive views given the historic, institutional violence against Mexicans and Mexican Americans. Mexican American Art Since 1848 (MAAS1848) aspires to accurately describe the materials we include and to respect the individuals and communities who create, use, and are represented in the collections we virtually unify. Frequently, we remove harmful descriptions, and we add culturally informed language to describe records.

Acknowledging that repairing harmful descriptions is an ongoing and collaborative process, we have been implementing policies to reduce harmful descriptions with content-experts, people from the communities represented in MAAS1848, critical cataloguers, and critical librarians, all of whom are also rethinking practices around outdated, harmful language.

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We also recognize that what is considered acceptable today may be viewed in the future as racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, ableist, classist, or harmful. If you encounter language in MAAS1848 that you find offensive or harmful, please use the tagging tool on each Item Page to recommend new descriptions and to note the harmful or offensive word or phrase. The image on your left illustrates the bar for entering new tags. This will allow us to examine the precise record and the descriptive words associated with the record. We welcome your feedback and concerns. More general comments and questions may be sent directly via email rhizomes@umn.edu.