The National Archives in Washington, DC, issued a public apology on Saturday after it altered a photograph of the 2017 Women’s March, which drew hundreds of thousands of activists, by blurring out Donald Trump’s name from signs that were critical of the newly elected president. “We made a mistake,” the National Archives said in a statement. The archives added that it will remove the edited image “as soon as possible” and will “start a thorough review of our exhibit policies and procedures so that this does not happen again.”
Taken by photographer Mario Tama, the photo shows a massive crowd of people marching down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC, on January 21, 2017, the day after Trump’s inauguration. The institution licensed the photo from Getty Images for its current display on the nineteenth amendment, “Rightfully Hers: American Women and the Vote.” The 49-by-69-inch photograph featured signs with phrases such as “God Hates Trump” and “Trump & GOP—Hands Off Women.” The archives also blurred the words “vagina” and “pussy” from signs which read, “If my vagina could shoot bullets, it’d be less REGULATED” and “This Pussy Grabs Back.”
“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,” archives spokesperson Miriam Kleiman said in a statement emailed to the Washington Post, which first reported the news. “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.” She also said that the other words were obfuscated in an attempt to keep the content of the exhibition appropriate for young visitors.
Rinku Sen, a president of the board of directors for the Women’s March, called the edited image a “symbol of the degradation of democracy.” “The National Archives are our public historians and historians are not meant to change history but to report it,” she told the New York Times. “To me, it says that censoring women is a thing that people think they can do.”