In Brief

National Archives Apologizes for Altering a Photograph of the 2017 Women’s March

The museum will remove an edited version of a photograph of the 2017 Women’s March that blurred protest placards and replace it with the original, unaltered image.

The 2017 Women’s March in DC (courtesy of Johnny Silvercloud/Flickr)

The National Archives Museum in Washington, DC issued a press release on Saturday apologizing for editing a photograph of the 2017 Women’s March to blur protest placards that criticized Trump and referred to women’s anatomy. The museum initially explained its decision to conceal the placard texts “so as not to engage in current political controversy.” It has now removed the doctored display and promised to replace it with the original, unaltered image.

“We made a mistake,” begins the statement. “As the National Archives of the United States, we are and have always been completely committed to preserving our archival holdings, without alteration.”

The photograph, taken by Getty Images photographer Mario Tama, was installed at the entrance of the museum’s current exhibition celebrating the centennial of women’s suffrage. It was one of two images included in a lenticular display: from one angle, viewers saw the teeming crowd of protesters on Pennsylvania Avenue NW at the first Women’s March on January 21, 2017, the day after President Trump’s inauguration; when viewed from a different perspective, the display shifted to a 1913 photograph of a women’s demonstration on Pennsylvania Avenue.

The concept was meant to be a compelling visual metaphor of women’s past and present crusades, but the National Archives’s decision to censor placards it deemed controversial mitigated the display’s potential and affected its value as a historical document. Much of the content it concealed is an important testament to the public outrage against President Trump’s treatment of women.

The museum blurred the word “Trump” in signs that read “God Hates Trump” and “Trump & GOP — Hands Off Women,” as well as the word “pussy” in a sign reading “This Pussy Grabs Back.” Museum spokespeople claimed some of the alterations were made to protect young visitors.

“Our exhibits are one way in which we connect the American people to those records,” National Archives spokeswoman Miriam Kleiman told the Washington Post. “Modifying the image was an attempt on our part to keep the focus on the records.”

The press release also clarifies that the photograph is not an archival record held in the collection of the National Archives, but an image the museum licensed from Getty to use as a promotional graphic. “We apologize, and will immediately start a thorough review of our exhibit policies and procedures so that this does not happen again,” concludes the statement.

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