Exploring Archival Content Mediation Features in Wintersession: A Focus Group Study

By Christa Cleeton, Faith Charlton, Shaun Ellis, and Amy C. Vo

Join us for an informative session during Wintersession as we explore ways to protect researchers from accidentally viewing harmful and offensive materials present in the Princeton University Library’s archival collections. A cross-departmental team, including Faith Charlton, Christa Cleeton, Shaun Ellis, and Amy C. Vo, is conducting a practical focus group study on harmful content and content mediation features within Princeton’s Finding Aids website.

As part of inclusive and reparative description efforts, archival staff in Special Collections have recently begun to implement harmful content mediation features as a way to mitigate harm for researchers, particularly those from marginalized communities, who encounter damaging, injurious, or otherwise hurtful description and/or collection content. Mediation features include content warnings that archivists apply to relevant online and analog content, cover images for online content, and feedback forms used for discovering and identifying harmful content.

Content Warning: Photos/materials depict scenes of anti-Black racially-motivated violence.

For more information on harmful content please see the PUL statement on Harmful Content.
Example of a harmful content warning from the finding aid to the John Doar Papers (MC247).

The primary goal of the focus group is to hear users’ perspectives on harmful content and content mediation features in our Finding Aids website, but also to better understand user perspectives on what they consider to be harmful and offensive. In particular, we are interested in hearing from those who identify as member(s) of marginalized communities as well as those who are interested in archives, archival research, and social justice. The study’s findings will inform a more effective implementation of these features. Engaging in User Experience research such as this provides an opportunity for staff to adhere to the archival principle of centering users as we gather user-driven data to inform our work.

The study, open to the Princeton community, will be a 3-hour session, consisting of a presentation with time for questions followed by smaller group discussions facilitated by members of the research team. You can find more information about our session on the Wintersession event description page (please note you will need to sign in with your Princeton credentials). We hope you will consider participating in our study! We would also encourage folks to join the waitlist if the session is full as attendance during Wintersession tends to fluctuate!

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