Brown Bag Lunch #3 – Archives and libraries following up on the Legacies of Enslavement report

On Friday 2nd December, 2022, the Decolonising through Critical Librarianship group together with the Cambridge Archivists Group held a Brown Bag Lunch, following up on the recent publication of the Legacies of Enslavement Report .

We asked attendees to read the website and/or report beforehand if possible, and also to engage with these questions, to inspire enriching discussions:

  • Has supporting this research changed or helped archivists interrogate the way archives are normally described?
  • Would a research guide on account books and similar be of help? Can we collaborate towards this?
  • Where else in their records have institutions been looking at?
  • How much support are archivists getting from their wider College structure? Has the publication of the report changed attitudes towards the topic of the research?
  • Looking into the legacies of enslavement in our institutions is an ongoing project. How can Colleges continue to support this?
  • What next? Where would archivists like to see this go?

Below is a summary of the thoughts and discussions that were shared, and a list of useful resources. Thank you very much to all who attended and to Melendra Sanders for her notes.

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Decolonising implications in Reader Services

This workshop, held in September 9th and 22nd 2021, looked at different decolonising issues in the day-to-day work of user-facing staff from colleges, departments and faculties libraries, archives, and the main University University. The workshop was facilitated by the Decolonising Through Critical Librarianship group and is also part of the Transforming Library series of events. You can read the report by Katherine Knight (Newnham College Library) on the event here.

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Decolonisation and Russia’s war against Ukraine

When the Cambridge University Libraries Decolonisation Working Group was set up in September 2020, its members agreed that the group’s terms of reference should include the following: “We recognise that while the primary colonial legacy in Cambridge libraries relates to the British Empire, Cambridge also holds material relating to other colonial powers, past and present, and this is also part of our decolonisation focus.”  The wording came about because I was keen to ensure that non-British colonial legacies should not be overlooked when we hold such extensive collections from all around the world.

The Library of Congress authority name heading for Kyïv, previously listed as Kiev.

Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine is a devastating reminder of these other colonial legacies.  Putin has openly compared his “military operation” against Ukraine to Peter I’s wars of expansion (or, more specifically, wars of reclamation, in Putin’s narrative).  In the library context, decolonisation work…

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How does decolonising Medicine affect my library?

On Thursday 19 May 2022, a Decolonising through Critical Librarianship workshop was held to discuss how decolonising medicine affects libraries.

The session opened with two presentations, given by members of the Library team at the University of Cambridge Medical Library.

Jo Milton (Library Manager) spoke about the actions taken to date by the University’s School of Clinical Medicine, and how these initiatives have affected the Library.

Against the backdrop of the international Black Lives Matter protests following the murder of George Floyd in May 2020, along with the inequalities exposed by the coronavirus pandemic, Cambridge students sent an open letter to the Medical School. The letter highlighted the racism that exists in our healthcare systems today, in relation to both the delivery of patient care and the experiences of medical practitioners and students.

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