Sunday, October 03, 2004

Historical revisionism

Yesterday toward the end of UNC's symposium on "Remembering Reconstruction," about which more later, historian Edward T. Linenthal, in the course of talking about his involvement with the National Park Service in a ten-year project of transforming the Custer Battlefield National Monument into the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, said of course this was historical revisionism--"A historian would have to be senile not to be doing revisionism" all the time.

Today's example I find here via the History News Network:

This last week, Washington Post columnist Al Kamen reported on an emerging controversy over the release of a new version of a video presentation at the Lincoln Memorial. According to Kamen, last year, the National Park Service (NPS), under pressure from conservative religious groups, announced that a video presentation shown to visitors at the memorial would be modified to create a more "politically balanced" version.

The old eight-minute video presentation that had been screened since 1995, opens with Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream Speech" and President Abraham Lincoln's condemnation of slavery. However, the video also shows demonstrations at the memorial against the Vietnam War and others favoring abortion, gay, and women's rights. Conservative groups objected and thought the video presentation needed a better balance of Republican presidents and inclusion of footage of pro-Gulf-War demonstrations that also took place at the memorial.

Kamen reports that the NPS has now spent almost $200,000 to make two new versions of this video. However, neither version has been released yet. Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), an NPS watchdog group, claims that NPS is withholding the release of the new version until after the Presidential election in November to avoid controversy. According to Jeff Ruch, PEER executive director, the first version was finish months ago but it failed to meet the standards of higher up officials, so a second version was created; it also is being withheld from release. Ruch suspects that it most likely "slashes feminists, war protesters and gays from American history." The NPS, however, is claiming that this is not the case.

NPS spokesperson Bill Line states there is "no basis in fact" to the allegation of electoral shenanigans. According to Lane, the final version is still not finished..."When it's ready, we'll let people know."

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