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Museum Collections: Library and Archives

The Library and Archives of the Northwest Railway Museums consists of both a research library and an archive. This department covers a wide range of topics and offers opportunities for visitors to deepen their understanding of the many peoples, places, and events that have shaped the development and impact of railways in the Pacific Northwest.

Research Library

The library offers a circulation of knowledge on railway history and technology from across the globe. Its collection includes many primary sources that document contemporary accounts of historical events and later remembrances by eyewitnesses.

The Archives

The archives consist of primary and secondary including letters, diaries, organizational records, monographs, periodicals, photographs, engineering records, and union meeting minutes. Advertising material such as timetables and promotional brochures, architectural plans, maps, films, videotapes, oral histories, and sound recordings are also included.

Learn more about the NRM’s collections stewardship in our Collections Management Policy.

Encountering Offensive Content in Library Materials

Library materials may contain offensive, inaccurate, or currently unacceptable terms and ideas that do not represent the NRM’s institutional values. These materials may be difficult and uncomfortable to encounter, however, primary sources provide essential documentary evidence of past events. The Museum continues to preserve these materials as part of the Pacific Northwest’s historical record and to provide important contextual resources for researchers.

Language and Bias in Library Cataloging

Librarians follow specialized standards and best practices when describing collections for public discovery. At times these standards limit the cataloger to rigid controlled vocabularies which may not align with currently preferred terminology. Descriptions used in the research library’s catalog and indexes may also reflect the biases and insensitivities present at the time they were created. Older collection descriptions may include objectionable language, sometimes copied directly from a material’s creators or donors, which may be lacking context to help researchers better understand why those words are used.

In recent years, the Museum has worked to develop and adapt new best practices that model a more mindful and empathetic approach. As the Museum implements these practices to create descriptions for new collections, we also are working to actively enhance and contextualize past descriptions. Reparative cataloging takes thoughtful effort, but over time improves access to and understanding of the research library collections.

Connect With the Museum’s Collections

We love to learn about the ways the community connects with the NRM’s research library & archives. Please feel welcome to reach out if you have used the collection in your research or creative project, or if you have discovered more about the collection that you would like to share. Sharing user stories that illustrate the value of the collections and research services is an important tool as the Museum advocates for future funding and program development. Please contact us if you have something to share.

Have questions or need more information about Library & Archives?

Feel free to reach out to us.

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