Statement on Critical Cataloging at the Morgan Library & Museum

The Morgan is currently engaged in an ongoing review and revision of the language used in our collections catalog. It is a work in progress, and we welcome feedback. If you encounter any insensitive, offensive, outdated, or inaccurate language in Morgan collection descriptions, please contact us at

Our critical and ethical cataloging work is part of the Morgan's Diversity, Equity, Access, and Inclusion initiatives.

Certain collection items held by the Morgan Library & Museum may include insensitive wording and overt expressions of bigotry or bias, as well as outdated cultural or geographical references and stereotypes. Language impacts those accessing our collections and has the potential to perpetuate systemic discrimination and cultural bias. Accordingly, we are committed to balancing sensitive presentation of content with research and discovery needs.

In the interest of research, exploration, and interpretation, the Morgan will continue (unless prevented by ethical or legal obligations) to provide access to its full collections database. In order to preserve and accurately present historical materials, and to ensure that attitudes and viewpoints of the past are not erased from the historical record, curators and catalogers will continue to preserve transcribed titles, captions, full-text documents, and inscriptions.

To mitigate the presence of insensitive or harmful content, we aim to alert users to offensive material by acknowledging and identifying instances of racism, sexism, ableism, and other forms of discrimination and biases.

To distinguish content created by Morgan staff from harmful content in collection items, we use quotation marks to denote language present in the item or originating from collector or dealer descriptions. We also seek to add contextual information about the creator, collector, period, and culture of such items to address their harmful, insensitive, or inaccurate content.

As part of the review process, Morgan curators and catalogers identify inappropriate language introduced by legacy descriptive practices and replace it with current language that is respectful to people and events. In some cases, the original language of description may need to be retained in order to facilitate research and discovery. An example of that is providing access to previous titles that may have been cited or appeared in publications.

In addition, we are accelerating research into collection items related to underrepresented cultures, groups, and individuals. Our goal is to improve access to these works by enhancing their descriptions in a sensitive, respectful, and accurate manner.

Critical and ethical cataloging will remain a priority in our collection description practice. We will continue to adapt our approach as cultural norms and language evolve.

Morgan staff engaged in collection description practices are accountable to the American Alliance of Museums Code of Ethics, the American Library Association Code of Ethics, Association of College & Research Libraries Code of Ethics for Special Collections Librarians, and the Society of American Archivists Code of Ethics.

This statement relies upon and borrows language from similar statements by many museums, libraries, and archives that have been actively pursuing the building of more equitable, inclusive, and diverse collection descriptions for their users.