The record-keeping institution has admitted it made a mistake after it was caught blurring the words “Trump” and “pussy” from the historic image.
The US National Archives – the independent government agency in charge of preserving documentation of government and historical records – has apologised after it was caught blurring the lines of history – literally.
On Saturday, on the eve of this year’s Women’s March, it emerged that a photo included in signage at the National Archives for an exhibition on women’s suffrage, had been altered to blur any anti-Trump signs.
The photo in question by Mario Tama showed the placard-holding crowd marching in Washington on 21 January 2017, the day after Trump’s inauguration and the largest single-day protest in American history.
The error was spotted by Washington Post journalist Joe Heim, who later explained on Twitter how he did it. He had been visiting the Archives for “a totally unrelated story” when he had seen the image, he said.
“I stopped to look at it. As I was trying to read some of the signs the marchers were carrying, I noticed one was blurred out. I thought that was odd and so I looked more closely at the rest of the image and saw other signs that had been blurred. So I took the photo credit info.
Heim then found the original photo online and returned to the Archives to compare against the one on display, which was when he realised what had been changed, he explained.
Four of the signs had been altered, including signs that said “God Hates Trump” and “Trump & GOP – Hands Off Women”, which both had the word “Trump” blurred.
Another, which read, “This Pussy Grabs Back”, had the word “pussy”.
Following the report in The Post, the National Archives admitted it had “obscured some words on protest signs in a photo of the 2017 Women’s March.”
“We made a mistake,” the institution said in a statement, as per The Guardian. “As the National Archives of the United States, we are and always have been completely committed to preserving our archival holdings without alteration.”
It added: “This photo is not an archival record held by the National Archives, but one we licensed to use as a promotional graphic. Nonetheless, we were wrong to alter the image.
“We have removed the current display and will replace it as soon as possible with one that uses the unaltered image. We apologize, and will immediately start a thorough review of our exhibit policies and procedures so that this does not happen again.”
A spokeswoman told The Post that as a “non-partisan, non-political federal agency” it had blurred the references to the president’s name “so as not to engage in current political controversy”.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words – presumably, only where the photo hasn’t been digitally altered to avoid “political controversy”.