DPLA Network Council developing IDEAS statement to guide future work

By DPLA, June 16, 2020.
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DPLA Hub member institutions work together to bring the riches of our nation’s archives, libraries, and museums to the public. The DPLA Network Council is a group of 30 representatives from our member institutions that comes together to surface network-wide issues and opportunities for collaboration. Recognizing the legacies of racism and white supremacy in our institutions that have resulted in the failure to develop collections truly representative of the public we serve, the Network Council has been developing a document to guide the creation of more inclusive and diverse collections. Network Council chair Ann Hanlon explains the goals of the Council and of the statement. We at DPLA are pleased with the start that this statement represents and we support the Network Council’s commitment to dismantling systemic racism. We know that words are just a startthat what matters are the actions we take.The DPLA Team

DPLA’s Network Council is the representative body for DPLA’s members. As cultural heritage workers and digital library practitioners, we recognize the deficits in the ways our profession has documented Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, the LGBTQ community, and others whose voices have been drowned out by those with more power or organizational standing. In the wake of protests against police brutality and the systemic racism that has for so long permeated our institutions and neighborhoods, we felt it was important to talk about how we are working in our own institutions to stand with Black Lives Matter and to take actions to address these deficits in the historical record, especially as it is shared in a national and openly accessible digital platform.

Technology has the power to reveal that deficit in stark terms or to obfuscate that deficit through sheer scale and inadequate description. As a membership, the Network Council recognized the importance of addressing issues of Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Access, and Social Justice (IDEAS) during discussions at our last in-person meeting in Chicago in April 2019. We made it our first priority to draft a statement to unify the membership around a clear expression of intent to actively work on closing this deficit and identify how a national digital library can and should respond. The IDEAS Task Force was formed in January 2020 to draft a statement expressing the principles and aspirations that should guide our work. A final draft was presented to the Network Council at its quarterly meeting on April 30, 2020 and we are now in the process of sharing and reviewing the statement with member organizations. The Network Council will vote on adopting the statement at the end of July. We’re approaching adoption of the statement through review and a final vote to ensure that we are speaking together as the voice of the DPLA membership. While the statement itself is aspirational (as well as self-reflective), it serves as a bridge to action. Already, the Metadata Working Group is developing resources and best practices for inclusive and ethical description of historical materials. We have more work to do, and our hope is that the IDEAS statement grounds that work and helps us to amplify all the voices that make up our shared history. While the statement is under review, we share the “preamble” in order to communicate its goals and the spirit in which we proceed. 

IDEAS Statement Preamble 

The DPLA Network Council statement on Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Access, and Social Justice (IDEAS) is the first action in a series of priorities identified by and approved by the DPLA Network and Advisory Councils in summer 2019. DPLA aggregates archival content from cultural heritage institutions across the United States. With a membership that represents a broad (but not broad enough) diversity of institutions and a growing collection of over 37 million items, we are in a unique position to see and reflect on the historical homogeneity of our collections, and to recognize and act on the need for diversity, representativeness, and respect in how we conduct the work of documenting and providing access to our shared history. This statement is a first step toward these larger goals and frames our collective commitment to an authentic reckoning with our past and an active stance toward doing better for the future. 

To address the components most relevant to DPLA members, the statement addresses our collections, our membership, and our intent with regard to participation. Regarding the latter, by doing no harm, we are resolving to participate in DPLA in good faith with respect for our content, our members, our users, and our shared history.

Thank you to the members of the IDEAS Task Force for their time and thoughtfulness in developing the IDEAS Statement: 

  • Whitney Buccicone, Digital Virginias
  • Amy Hunsaker, Mountain West Digital Library
  • Drew Kupsky, Missouri Hub
  • Kinza Masood, Vice-Chair, Network Council, Mountain West Digital Library
  • Shaneé Yvette Murrain, DPLA Community Manager
  • Penelope Shumaker, Ohio Digital Network

Ann Hanlon

Chair, Network Council  and Network Council Representative, Recollection Wisconsin, and Head of Digital Collections and Initiatives, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee