Library Digital Collections

Statement on Historical Context & Cultural Sensitivity in Collections

The UC San Diego Library provides access to a variety of resources for teaching and research purposes, such as archival materials, images, and historical newspapers. These items reflect the perspectives, social norms, and biases of the time period in which they were created. Part of our mission as a research library is to preserve the original context and terminology associated with materials in our collection. This information is intended to serve as valuable evidence for analyzing and challenging the legacies of that history both as it occurred and how it unfolds in the modern-day rather than to perpetuate or endorse any discriminatory, or offensive attitudes or acts.

We recognize that the UC Library Digital Collections includes materials that are troubling, discriminatory and racist, and we are critically reflecting on how to address these issues while understanding the place these items hold in history and impact scholarship. We acknowledge our responsibility and are committed to continuing to develop practices that are equitable, inclusive, and anti-oppressive at the intersections of race, gender, faith, class, sexuality, and ability. This work is iterative and ongoing.

We also strive to be respectful of the beliefs and practices of different cultures by actively following cultural protocols, building relationships, consulting and engaging in shared, culturally responsive decision making with communities and scholars. This may include providing proper attribution, context statements, or mediated access.

Our practices are guided by our principles as well as work occurring across the UC system, including the Statement on Inclusion and Equity in Special Collections, Archives, and Distinctive Collections in the University of California Libraries and The University of California Calisphere’s Statement on Collections.

If you have feedback regarding the content in our collections and wish to communicate with us please contact and include the following:

Upon receipt of your request, UC San Diego Library staff will:


Example of Context Statement 

The Dr. Seuss Political Cartoons is a collection of drawings from 1941-1943 by author and illustrator Theodor Geisel, also known as Dr. Seuss, available through the Library’s Digital Collections website. These images were created while he was chief editorial cartoonist for the New York magazine called PM. Some cartoons in this collection contain discriminatory images often satirical in nature, reflecting the political views of the publication during the World War II era. The Library has added a contextual statement on the collection page. Each item contains a link to the collection page.


Example of Mediated Access 

The Sylvester M. Lambert Photographs were taken by American public health physician Sylvester Maxwell Lambert (1882-1947) during his extensive travels throughout Oceania between 1919 and 1939. Included are images of person(s) now deceased. In some Aboriginal Communities, hearing the names or seeing the images of deceased persons may cause sadness or distress, particularly to the relatives of these people. The Library added a click through statement to inform viewers before they view the content in order to be respectful of the communities’ cultural practices around death. There are also images in this collection that contain frontal nudity and require registration and authentication before accessing the content.

For questions about the content or rights of our collections, please see the Digital Content Policies and Take Down Policy.

Document Status: Final

Prepared by: Erik Mitchell, Roger Smith, Lynda Claassen, Xi Chen, and Cristela Garcia-Spitz

Reviewed by: Library Leadership Council, Special Collections & Archives, Digital Collections and Operations Groups, Library Diversity & Inclusion Committee, Academic Senate Commitee on the Library, Office of the Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, and other stakeholders

Published: October 2021