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National Archives apologizes for altering 2017 Women's March photo

The National Archives in Washington D.C. has apologized for altering a photo of the first Women's March in 2017 by blurring some signs that criticized President Donald Trump. The alterations were first reported by The Washington Post on Friday.

"We made a mistake," the Archives said in a press release issued on Saturday.

"As the National Archives of the United States, we are and have always been completely committed to preserving our archival holdings, without alteration."

After the editing was discovered, archives spokeswoman Miriam Kleiman told the Washington Post that "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."

News of an edited image at the National Archives angered many, including historians. 

"There's no reason for the National Archives to ever digitally alter a historic photograph," Rice University historian Douglas Brinkley told the Post. "... A lot of history is messy, and there's zero reason why the Archives can't be upfront about a photo from a women's march."

The inaugural Women's March photo appeared in a promotional display used in an elevator lobby, according to the archives. The display promotes their current exhibit on the 19th Amendment — which gave women the right to vote — but was not part of the official exhibit. 

"We obscured some words on protest signs in a photo of the 2017 Women's March. 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," the archives said.

Thousands Attend Women's March On Washington
Protesters walk during the Women's March on Washington, with the U.S. Capitol in the background, on January 21, 2017 in Washington, DC. Mario Tama / Getty Images

The institution calls itself the "nations record keeper," and preserves all federal records that are "judged to have continuing value," according to its website. That includes approximately "10 billion pages of textual records; 12 million maps, charts, and architectural and engineering drawings; and 25 million still photographs."

The archives said they have removed the current display, and will replace it as soon as possible with one that uses the same photo without alterations. 

"We apologize, and will immediately start a thorough review of our exhibit policies and procedures so that this does not happen again."

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