Update, January 18, 2020, 4 p.m.: The National Archives has apologized for censoring a photo of Women’s March signs and removed the altered image.
“We made a mistake,” the National Archives said in an apology thread on its official Twitter account. In a subsequent tweet, the National Archives admitted “we obscured some words on protest signs in a photo of the 2017 Women’s March” and stated, “This photo is not an archival record held by the @usnatarchives, but one we licensed to use as a promotional graphic. Nonetheless, we were wrong to alter the image.”
The National Archives said it will replace the altered image from the inaugural 2017 Women’s March by Mario Tama as soon as possible with the unaltered version. “We apologize, and will immediately start a thorough review of our exhibit policies and procedures so that this does not happen again,” the thread concluded.
We have removed the current display and will replace it as soon as possible with one that uses the unaltered image.— US National Archives (@USNatArchives) January 18, 2020
We apologize, and will immediately start a thorough review of our exhibit policies and procedures so that this does not happen again.
This article was originally published on January 18, 2020.
The annual Women’s March, which first occurred in January 2017 as a response to President Donald Trump’s inauguration, this year held its fourth demonstration in Washington D.C., as well as several other major cities including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and more. Protesters were, however, disappointed to learn that the National Archives censored signs that were critical of, or mentioned Trump in a display that included photos from the 2017 marches. In addition, the agency also blurred signs that referenced women’s anatomy, The Washington Post reports.
The censored photo is a Getty photo taken by Mario Tama at the 2017 Women’s March. In it, a 1913 black-and-white image is blurred into a 2017 image on Pennsylvania Avenue as the viewer changes perspective. The photo was part of an exhibit celebrating the Women’s suffrage movement.
National Archives spokesperson Miriam Kleiman explained the reasoning behind the censorship in an emailed statement to The Washington Post.
“As a non-partisan, non-political federal agency, we blurred references to the president’s name on some posters, so as not to engage in current political controversy,” said Kleiman. “Our mission is to safeguard and provide access to the nation’s most important federal records, and our exhibits are one way in which we connect the American people to those records. Modifying the image was an attempt on our part to keep the focus on the records.”
In response to the censorship, many Women’s March attendees took to Twitter to speak out against the practice.
“Hey National Archives, blur this,” said one person.
“If the National Archives wants to blur Women’s March images critical of Trump, let me make it clear: 1. This was my sign. 2. It was specifically directed at Trump’s pussy grabbing; and 3. I plan to live a long time to remind everyone of it,” said another person who attended the march.
If the National Archives wants to blur Women’s March images critical of Trump, let me make it clear:— Josephine (@steelsnowflake1) January 18, 2020
1. This was my sign.
2. It was specifically directed at Trump’s pussy grabbing; and
3. I plan to live a long time to remind everyone of it#NationalArchives #WomensMarch pic.twitter.com/hL2EK9SdFs
“This is intensely distressing to me. It is not the job of the National Archives to alter our history and make it less ‘political’. Our history *is* political,” said another protester.
This is intensely distressing to me.— Tiffany Bond (I) 🎱🦞🇺🇸 (@TiffanyBond) January 18, 2020
It is not the job of the National Archives to alter our history and make it less "political".
Our history *is* political. https://t.co/IfyQlCz5US
The Women’s March also responded to the censorship on Twitter, emphasizing the importance of preserving the history of all marginalized people.
“Say WHAT? We cannot afford to protect the very man who pushes women of color, femmes, indigenous women and so many more to the margins of history. We march tomorrow to preserve the history of the many, not just the elite few.”
Say WHAT?— Women's March (@womensmarch) January 18, 2020
We cannot afford to protect the very man who pushes women of color, femmes, indigenous women and so many more to the margins of history.
We march tomorrow to preserve the history of the many, not just the elite few. #WomensMarch2020 https://t.co/KwscxXHOIX
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