Digitized Archival and Special Collections: Potentially Offensive Materials

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries established a digitization program in the fall of 2001. The primary mission of the program is to serve the UWM academic community and the general public by providing digital access to unique library resources. Digital collections in the form of text, images, sound, and video are openly available for a variety of purposes: teaching, research, learning, and even entertainment. The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee community values digital access to this growing body of unique materials that document the history of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and the Milwaukee community, as well as the wider world. These digitized archival collections provide evidence of institutional activities and decision-making, as well as the activities of individuals and organizations. Digital access to these materials enhances their use, ensures accountability, and provides broader access to historical records.

The nature of historical materials is such that some material may represent positions, norms, and values that are no longer (or never were) consistent with the positions, norms, and values of the UWM Libraries or of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee as a whole. Some materials that are part of our digital collections may be considered offensive. The UWM Libraries strives to provide context for these items through descriptive records, and where considered necessary, statements attached to the digitized object that provide a warning about potentially sensitive content.

Specific objections to materials will be addressed in accordance with the UWM Libraries’ mission and this policy, and in consultation with the librarians and archivists responsible for the specified collections, who are informed on their professions’ best practices, codes of ethics, and responsible and sensitive handling of cultural materials. Possible actions may include but are not limited to the following:

  • The identified materials remain available online with no change
  • Provision of additional descriptive information to provide context for the materials in question

In rare cases, removal of materials from online access may be considered. However, the UWM Libraries places an extremely high value on providing access and context. Therefore, this option may be considered only in exceptional circumstances.

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries supports the principle of freedom of access to information for every user. The UWM Libraries proudly endorses the American Library Association (ALA)’s Library Bill of Rights; ALA’s Access to Digital Information, Services, and Networks: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights; the ACRL-SAA Joint Statement on Access: Guidelines for Access to Original Research Materials; the ACRL Code of Ethics for Special Collections Librarians; and the Society of American Archivists (SAA)’s Core Values Statement and Code of Ethics.

How to Report Potentially Offensive Materials

Inquiries may be made by filling out the form at this address (you may remain anonymous if you wish):

You may also direct your inquiry to the appropriate unit housing the collection or item in question, or by contacting the Digital Collections and Initiatives Department directly at this email address: digilib@uwm.edu:

Archives Department

Special Collections

American Geographical Society Library

Music Collection

Curriculum Collection