News Article

National Archives Foundation Statement – Rightfully Hers

January 22, 2020

Statement from Patrick Madden, National Archives Foundation Executive Director:

As you may have seen in the Washington Post over the weekend, an article identified alterations made to a photograph on view in the National Archives Museum associated with the Rightfully Hers exhibition.

The photograph of the 2017 Women’s March on Washington, which was paired with a 1913 photo of the Washington march for suffrage, appears in a promotional display outside the exhibition. In the reproduction of the 2017 photo, the words on some signs were obscured to remove certain references to women’s anatomy and President Trump. Although the photograph is not an official record of the Archives, the fact that alterations were made to it was a surprise and of great concern to the Foundation’s Board of Directors and some of our members.

We were grateful that the same day the story appeared in the paper, the photo was taken down and the National Archives released a statement. In the statement the National Archives:

  • — formally apologized,
  • — admitted its mistake, and
  • — launched a review of its exhibit policies so that this does not happen again.

The next day, the Washington Post editorialized that “Admitting and correcting a mistake are usually a lot harder for any of us than erring in the first place. But in their statement, [Archives] officials did not flinch.”

I encourage you to read the full statement here. The National Archives Foundation Board of Directors met with the Archivist over the weekend to discuss the gravity of the situation and how the Foundation can help during the policy review.

No one at the Foundation is diminishing the seriousness of what occurred. It is up to the National Archives to show the public through its actions that it is a trusted institution that will hold and display our collective – and unvarnished – history.

Because the Foundation works closely with the dedicated professionals of the National Archives staff in Washington DC and around the country as they develop vital exhibitions and civic education programs, we know they care deeply for the country’s records, in the meticulous protection of our history for future generations, and public access to the documents.

The Foundation will work with the National Archives leadership to restore the trust and integrity that is expected by the American people. We hope you will continue to support the Foundation now and into the future.

Please feel free to be in touch with us about your concerns or questions. Thank you.