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Altering History

Imagine if the 9/11 museum in New York City altered the graphic images of that tragic event to avoid the sensitivities of young visitors.  The curators wisely chose to tackle the horror head-on, with appropriate warnings in some wings of the exhibit announcing the disturbing nature of some images and other content.

Not so at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.  Touting itself as “the nation’s record keeper,” the independent government agency houses documents such as the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence.  

And yet, when promoting an art display about the women’s suffrage movement, it did the unthinkable.  It changed history by altering a large photo depicting the 2017 Women’s March on Washington, blurring the word “Trump” on a protester’s sign which read “God Hates Trump,” as well as images of other protester signs containing words (like “pussy” and “vagina”) the Archives deemed “inappropriate.” 

A Washington Post reporter stumbled upon the alterations while visiting the Archives for a different story.

After some uproar, the Archives apologized for its alterations and promised to replace the photograph with the original.

Chalk this one down to a teachable moment. The Archives fixed its gaffe, albeit eight months after it first was displayed and only after the news media alerted the public to the irony of it all. Fortunately, the United States is not doomed to the regular practice of other empires which erase unpleasantness from their histories.  

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