National Archives Replaces Altered Women’s March Photo

The National Archives apologized after its decision to alter a 2017 Women’s March photo sparked controversy.

Getty Images

In a country whose painful history of oppression is still taboo, the National Archives was widely condemned for altering a photo of mostly women protesting President Trump. It has apologized and restored the photo.

In an exhibit on the 19th Amendment, the Archives displayed a blurred photo of the 2017 Women’s March in D.C., which took place the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, to obscure four protesters’ signs, the Washington Post first reported last week. After attracting widespread criticism, including from historians, the Archives said in a statement that it replaced the altered photo on Wednesday.

The commercially licensed Getty photo in question appeared beside a 1913 archival photo of a suffrage march on D.C. in an exhibit about suffrage that opened in May. Some of the censored material included messages critical of Trump and references to women’s bodies (in a sign that said “This Pussy Grabs Back,” the word “pussy” was blurred).

In the Archives’ statement on Wednesday, Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero cited reasons for the alternation, including concerns about being accused of partisanship or complaints about inappropriate language in “a family-friendly Federal museum.”

“However, we wrongly missed the overall implications of the alteration,” Ferriero said in the statement. “Our action made it appear as if we did not understand the importance of our unique charge: as an archives, we must present materials – whether they are ours or not – without alteration; as a museum proudly celebrating the accomplishments of women, we should accurately present not silence the voices of women; and as a Federal agency serving the American public, we must incorporate non-partisanship into everything we do.”

The 2017 photograph taken by Mario Tama now appears in its original form in a temporary display, and it will be installed beside the 1913 photograph in permanent display once it’s ready.

In its apology on Saturday, the National Archives vowed to “start a thorough review of our exhibit policies and procedures so that this does not happen again.”