Decolonising the Archives

In response to the LSHTM and colonialism: history and legacy project and the Black Lives Matter movement, the archives are re-examining the collections we hold, the stories we tell and the role we play in critically engaging with the School’s colonial legacy.

We have developed a set of principles for decolonising the archive and an operational plan that the team update annually.

Principles on decolonising the archive

"When archivists and their institutions acknowledge the marginalization or absence of the oppressed they must respond through establishing a reparative archive that engenders inclusivity. Reparative archival work does not pretend to ignore the imperialist, racist, homophobic, sexist, ableist, and other discriminatory traditions of mainstream archives, but instead acknowledges these failures and engages in conscious actions toward a wholeness that may seem to be an exercise in futility but in actuality is an ethical imperative for all within traditional archival spaces."

Quote: Hughes-Watkins, Lae'l (2018), Moving Toward a Reparative Archive: A Roadmap for a Holistic Approach to Disrupting Homogenous Histories in Academic Repositories and Creating Inclusive Spaces for Marginalized Voices, Journal of Contemporary Archival Studies: Vol. 5 , Article 6. P.3. 

Cataloguing practice

  • Create cataloguing guidelines for decolonising current collections and future collections
  • Review current catalogues in terms of terminology/language/emphasis/omissions
  • Use secondary sources more critically eg School histories

Archival practice

Review and amend Archive policies, statements and procedures and consider how these have contributed to the erasure and marginalisation of underrepresented groups.


  • Tell a different story with our collections
  • Acknowledge colonial history and racism within certain collections without appearing to excuse it
  • Create opportunities for discussion and critical engagement from a decolonisation perspective
  • Create opportunities and work in partnership with colleagues in the School including Decolonising Global Health Group and Centre for History in Public Health on events
  • Re-evaluate the content of current regular events such as Open House, Student Open Day and History Day and how decolonising principles/content can be included


  • Archives team to undertake training in diversity, inclusion and intersectionality
  • Read and study resources provided by groups and networks such as Decolonising Global Health Group, Archives and Records Association and The National Archives in order to continue our professional development in this area


  • Ensure that the Archives Service is inclusive to all of our users
  • Review our recruitment practices for future posts

This is a working document which the Archives team will continue to develop in response to new research within the School and externally. Principles will be regularly reviewed and amended where relevant.