We made a mistake.— US National Archives (@USNatArchives) January 18, 2020
As the National Archives of the United States, we are and have always been completely committed to preserving our archival holdings, without alteration. pic.twitter.com/VTWOS4R7GY
The US National Archives has apologized for a mistake that seems of timely importance--they prominently featured a licensed display that blurred out the messages of signs carried during the 2017 Women's March. In the messages being blurred out in a selective way that eliminated the name "Trump" and blurred out "controversial" references to female anatomy, these amendments significantly lost the meanings those signs very much intended to convey:
One of the photos of the Washington march, taken by Mario Tama, a photographer for Getty Images, showed a sea of protesters holding signs criticizing Trump, The Post reported.
The National Archives, which featured the photo in its exhibit, blurred Mr. Trump’s name on a sign that originally read “God Hates Trump.” Another sign “Trump & GOP — Hands Off Women” also has the word Trump blurred out, The Post reported.
A sign with the word “vagina” was also blurred and the word “pussy” was erased from another sign. The references to the female anatomy were a rebuke of Mr. Trump’s comments about women in a 2005 recording that captured him boasting how he used his celebrity status to force himself on women, even groping their private parts.
Those words were altered because the museum has many young visitors and there was concern they might be inappropriate, Ms. Kleiman told The Post.
The Women's March came about as a reaction to Trump's election as a multiply-accused and self-described sexual assaulter, and as a politician who was certain to appoint judges who would rule against necessary women's healthcare and other legislation that protects our bodies, our self-determination, our access to equal opportunities and compensation. The words that were supposed to be potentially inappropriate for young museum-goers are either correct anatomical terms or vernacular words used by the president himself, for organs roughly 51% of people happen to have, which should make them commonplace enough not to offend anyone in a rational society.
Many people marched in many parts of the world that day because they wanted to establish that the voices of women mattered--a very good reason for a display depicting those demonstrators to render those words accurately, not blur them, because those words were what the march was about! It simply is not possible to divorce that march, or the following marches, from the politics of our time, and doing so seems like the exact opposite of what history should be for. A faithful archive of the conflicts of moments in time.
I don't want to assume that the Archive's act of "forgetting" was at political direction (is a FOIA pending, though?) because I think sometimes, institutions can be guilty of shying away from controversy in the vague idea of being inclusive, and inadvertently excluding people whose truths are uncomfortable in a way that reinforces a dominant narrative. This isn't a case, necessarily, of the US National Archive silencing a minority voice to support a dominant narrative though--it really seems to me like they messed up and muted a dominant voice (the diverse and multicultural Women's March contingent) to pacify the minority narrative of people who would complain loudest at the idea that "Trump" is a dirty word for some, and "vagina" is not.
The Trump government will not have the last word on our history. The US National Archive should reflect that. Censorship is a kind of lie.