NARA, Presidential Libraries and More…

Anthony Clark, who is writing a history of presidential libraries (and blogged about here) recently spoke at Pitt as part of the Archival Agitators and Advocates series.  His talk, “Presidential Libraries: The Last Campaign; How Presidents Rewrite History, Run for Posterity and Enshrine their Legacies” is now available online (username: lectures password: public).

And, on Anthony Clark’s blog, he has an interesting new post.  The entry begins:

“Sharon Fawcett, the Assistant Archivist for Presidential Libraries, is quoted in yesterday’s Dallas Morning News as saying that NARA has a specific influence on the initial permanent exhibit in a presidential library – the one that is produced by the private foundation that builds the library:

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.””

But, Mr. Clark notes that this might not be exactly right:

“In fact, there are many examples at presidential libraries where the permanent exhibit “glosses over” – or, worse, completely ignores – controversies. The museums at the Carter and Clinton libraries currently are the only ones that are fundamentally the same as when they opened. The exhibits at the other ten libraries have significantly changed their permanent exhibits from the originals. And yet, many, if not most, arguably do what Ms. Fawcett claims NL makes sure that they do not. One often-used example is that there is no mention of the Iran-Contra affair in the permanent exhibit at the Ronald Reagan Library.*  Ben Hufbauer has chronicled several other “missing” controversies, both in his book and in a recent article in the Journal of American History. I will analyze a number of examples in my book, and they all fundamentally contradict Ms. Fawcett’s characterization of NL’s – her – effect on the exhibits in presidential libraries.”

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