“One of the things important about history is to remember the true history.” –George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., June 6, 2008

The Dallas Morning News has a two-question Q-and-A with archivist Sharon Fawcett of the NARA about presidential libraries. Here’s the interesting half:

Managing conflicts between scholars wanting the libraries for unvarnished research and presidents using them to polish their legacies:

“They certainly can conflict. But we look at the early museum exhibit in a presidential library as more of an artifact. It comes to us when the library is built and is the interpretation by the president of his administration. We work with the foundation to temper some aspects of the exhibit. For example, it was very important for the National Archives when the Clinton exhibit opened that it included a section on the impeachment. And that was included. We don’t want to gloss over controversies in an administration. We believe they should be addressed.”

(Bold is mine. Just realized it’s not even a Q-and-A.  It’s like a Suggestion-and-A. Weird little piece, DMN. Especially odd that the link was so prominently placed on your site.)

Anyway, I didn’t realize the exhibit came to the NARA already intact, and that, effectively, each president gets the first crack at presenting his own history (after those first-drafters in the press corps, at least). I knew the Nixon Library had an objectionable approach to Watergate, but I didn’t know who was to blame. I haven’t been to the Clinton Library yet, but I wonder if the National Archives’ leaning did any good.

So, how will W. make it look? Which of these will make it? And what about that enduring question: how long will Bush’s version of history stay on display? If Nixon is any guide…

The [Nixon] exhibit, which stood for 17 years, had been designed to last, and the demolition took two weeks. “It was as permanent as you can build it,” said museum Curator Olivia Anastasiadis.


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