tv Presidential Libraries and Museums CSPAN May 29, 2017 3:55pm-4:56pm EDT
said, a man dies, nation may rise and fall. watch this and other american history programs on our website where all the video is archi archived. that's c-span.org/history. >> up next, author jodi kanter talks about museums shaping presidency legacies. this is about an hour. >> good afternoon, everyone. i'd like to welcome you and our good friends from c-span to the mcowen theater located in the national archives building in washington, d.c. i'm doug swanson, visitor services manager and producer of the lecture series. before we begin today's program, i'd just like to remind you of
other programs that will be taking place at this location in the near future. tomorrow evening on thursday, march 30th at 7:30 p.m., the state of alaska is sponsoring a performance of the alaska chamber group, wild shores new music as the state celebrates its purchase of the russia-america, and on thursday, april 13th at 7:00 p.m. will be presenting a panel discussion, 100 years world war i and weight of sacrifice where the discussion is centered around the new national world war i memorial that's to be built at persing park in washington, d.c. to find out more about these and other programs, you can take one of our monthly event calendars in the theater lobby or visit our website at www.archives.gov/calendar. our topic for today is presidential libraries as
performance, curating presidents, and dr. jodi kanter is from the department of theater and dance, arts and sciences at george washington university, and she has served as trauma for productions at washington area theaters, and her larger emphasis is on strengthening communities through adaptation and performance. to this end, she's created workshops, events, and productions in a wide variety of settings including theaters, hospitals, prisons, cultural centers, libraries, galleries, schoo schools, and other public spaces. her previous book "performing loss: rebuilding community through tleeter and writing" explains how to use performance to deal with grief. her articles have appeared in text and performance quarterly, and theater annual, cultural
studies critical methodologies, and in several edited volumes. she currently serves on the editorial board of text performance quarterly. she has a b.a. in english literature from harvard university, m.a. of communication studies from chapel hill, and ph.d. from northwestern university. she's a trained facilitator of the oppressed, and before joining the fault at g.w., she was associate professor of theater and dance at university of missouri winning awards for creative work and service. please help me in welcoming jodi kanter to the washington, d.c. archives. [ applause ] >> thank you, i'm happy to be here.
the setting is washington, d.c. winter of 1938. the curtain opens on an office rs but not any office. this one is so famous that has it's very own name, recognized around the world as a place of power, the oval office. seated at the desk in the house call home for the last five years, franklin roosevelt is worrying about history. in many ways, this is the very practice for which the office was designed, but he's not worried about shaping the content of history, but influencing public access to it. specifically, he's worried about whether millions of citizens from every part of the land have access to the historical documents to this time and place, to the story of what we
have lived and are living today. he knows he wants to be able to answer this question differently than it's been answered before. along with some of his contemporaries, roosevelt is perhaps the first high-ranking politician to worry about public access to presidential history in this way. roosevelt is not a a selfless man. like any other head of state, ancient or modern, he seeks to secure a place for himself in the history of the nation, and with it, the world, but roosevelt has also begun to develop a critical consciousness about the relationship between history and power. he's begun to understand the problems with the prevailing approach to history that would influence and articulate 40 years later.
the past is told from the point of view of governments, conquerers, diplomats, leaders. it's like they deserve universal accept ta acceptance, and it's if they, the founding fathers, the leading members of congress, the famous justices of the supreme court represent the nation as a whole. traditional forms of public history, roosevelt recognizes, promote patriotism, but they under represent and misrepresent those who lack the numbers, money, or other resources to make themselves heard. president roosevelt and his advisers were the first national leaders to act on this emerging awareness of the narrowness of american public history. they took important steps to embed within the federal government an approach to public history that expanded the definition of the historics. through efforts such as the
historic american building survey and the works progress administration with its federal writers program of citizen historians, and that the president's initiative, they commissioned the first presidential library to preserve primary sources of american history. in making his presidential materials publicly available, roosevelt explicitly confirmed the historic value of broad civic participation. proclaiming his faith in the capacity of america's own people, so to learn from the past that they can gain in judgment in creating their own future. and at the library dedication a small ceremony inviting the facility's neighbors through an ad in the local newspaper.
this allowed future generations of americans would be grateful for his foresight. so i wanted to share that directly from the book because it's really the beginning. this is an image that you can find on the website of the fdr library of the dedication of this first library. which was a community event in a very real sense. i wanted to tell you about the structure that roosevelt set up by which presidential libraries would henceforth be covered. the structure could be
characterized as a public-private partnership. the way it worked was that roosevelt and in the future, his presidential foundation and presidential foundations of other presidents would raise the money to build the library and oversee its first display, and upon the dedication ceremony that very moment, the administration of the libraries would be transferred to the national archives. and that arrangement has had, i think, a democracy influence on these institutions, the public institutions of the presidential libraries, and i think that impulse is probably nowhere more
glaringly demonstrated than in the nixon library. as some of you may know, the nixon library originally opened as a private library, a private institution. nixon opted out of the federal system. there end sued what the former director of presidential libraries called the 30 years war in which two factions represented by nixon's two daughters fought in the courts and elsewhere about whether or not this library was going to become part of the national library system, so 30 years later that fight was won by the
faction that wanted it part of the system, and the condition upon which that change was made was that there had to be a watergate exhibit, a substantive watergate exhibit in the new library, so the first director of the library under the federal system, there were directors before, but this was appointed by the national archives, set about doing just that, and in 2007, this exhibit of which i just showed you here, a very small piece, but it's a wall length exhibit, and i wanted to show you this piece so you could see it in a little more detail. this exhibit, if it can be criticized, i would say it could
only be criticized on the basis of sharing an overwhelmingly large amount of information, so it aired on the other side in giving a really extensive history of the very complex events of the watergate scandal, and in addition to this wall you see here, there is also a series of monitors to pull up oral history material and a film. it's a very large exhibit, and this democracy influence of the national archives has continued,
and i say with great hope it's become stronger. i think, for example, the reagan library took -- i believe it was 20 years, somewhere between 10 to 20 years to redo its exhibit so it gave a full accounting of the contra scandal, so that was a significantly shorter amount of thyme than it took to create watergate exhibit, and the clinton library opened with the impeachment story as part of the library so they didn't think about not having it there.
now one hopes for it to become more robustly represented over time, and i vex that that will happen, but it was there when the exhibit opened. so i'm going to talk to you about some displays within the museums that i think illustrate this inclusive democratic ideal of the presidential libraries. this is a favorite exhibit of mine from the carter library. this it was not in the original carter library, so this exhibit resulted from a renovation done in 2009, which was 13 years after the library opened, and
one of the large changes in the new exhibited was a very expanded exhibit of carter's early years iss syears, and as from the heading on the side there, this exhibit really focused on the african-americans in his community who were extremely influential in the early years. not only did it do that in passing, but shared and named the people and really emphasize ed carter's -- what -- the
advantages he gained from this intimacy from people who were different from him. this is not a display, but this is the outside of the clinton library. the clinton library was consciously model after the slogan of his re-election campaign, which was a bridge to the 21st century, and as you can a little tell here, the building looks like a bridge, and most importantly, it looks like an unfinished bridge with the end arking out of the arkansas river, and the idea in clinton's
speeches and idea embodied in the building and in a lot of the displays was that we all had a role in finishing -- in building and finishing the bridge. so the displays inside the library also emphasized this in a number of ways, for example, the clinton library has the most extensive exhibit on the vice president of any of the libraries. it also highlights his relationship with nelson mandela. there's a number of ways in which it emphasizes working together.
talking about the visitor's experience, i want to talk about a couple of other displays in other libraries. the first one i want to mention that i don't have an image of is at the hoover library in west branch, iowa. it has what's, perhaps to me, the most moving. i guess you call it a display. of any of the libraries, and that is a video that has its own space in the library with chairs around it that shows excerpts from oral histories conduct ed
with people who were children in the first world war. who were influence in profound ways by hoover's humanitarian work, and hearing the voices of ordinary people talking about the impact of his pre-presidential work on their lives is very moving. the details are still with me. it was many years now that i visited the hoover library, but there was a map who talked about the smell of the hoover rolls when he first smelled them, and how revolutionary that smell was for him. somebody else who talks about
having -- being allowed his own plate by this humanitarian effort, and the amazing experience of having his very own plate. the other one i wanted to mention, which i think is, perhaps surprising, is in the eisenhower library. the eisenhower library is the only presidential library so far that dedicated space to people of communities to people who were struggling in theize p hour years in the presidential years, so, and that exhibit at the eisenhower library is simply called "the other america," so there's a large display on the 1950s and all of the new
inventions and cultural joys of the 1950s, and in the next room, the other america, which begins with the sentence that is something like not all americans shared in the good times, and it talks about three, four different specific communities that really struggled during this time. i want to talk next about two kind of live experiences of two
presidential libraries th contribute to the sense of civic participation. the first one is in the first george bush library, and it's called the golf wars theater, and it is the only example so far in the presidential libraries of an immersive -- museum what people call an immersive exhibit. visitor walks into this space, sits on one of these crates that you see in the foreground of the photograph, and listen to the voices of soldiers who fought in the war being played short snipits, a collage of the voices talking about their experiences,
and what you can't see in the photographs is as the lights shift as you sit there listening, and the space in the center of the photograph that looks like it might be a hole is actually a screen, and that screen shows images from the war, but very close up and somewhat abstracted images, so you're not looking at tv footage of the gulf war, you're really looking at imagery taken from the news footage. so this exhibit, i think, really encourages the visitor to stay, to stay put for a while, and
experience a number of sensory and physical ways what it might have been like to be a part of that conflict. the second one i want to talk about is not an immersive exhibit, but it's an unusual example of libraries' ways of dealing with the legacy of a president, so i should pause here and say that the presidential libraries are structured in similar ways, and that structure is more or less chronological, that, you know, you offer an exhibit on their early years and then their prepresidential career, and then their presidential years, and then their post presidency, and then their legacy. i got very interested in how one
represents a legacy. i thought this was an interesting way, not in the george bush way, of doing it, but this is called lbj and you, and it talks about the ways in which lbj's presidency continues to act upon our lives and our bodies today. so you can see big bird right in this photograph, and photograph that says, have you ever watched public television, and if you have watched pl eed public tele you've been influence by this legacy. two images down from big bird, there's a boy buckling himself in with a seat belt.
the text says, "have you ever used a seat belt?" so it's a really intimate, in a a way, and personal way of thinking about how leadership effects ordinary people. i'll end with how i think the libraries can do better at what they do, and then i'm happy to take whatever questions you might have. one thing that libraries can do, and this is something that i should say museums in regigener struggle with is to bring in a
more diverse visitorship. sam mcclure, the director of the libraries at the national archives, i asked him, why is it that you really haven't done any studies on who comes to the library demographically? and he said, it's because we don't need e a survey to know how old and white we are. so that is an issue that the archives is aware of, and, again, many other museums are aware of, and i think there are a couple of ways to come at that, besides a public programming, which is sort offon the scope of what i'm talking about today, but one is to
create displays like the one i've already mentioned, where people see citizens who look like them, right, who look like themselves, and the other is to make clever and innovative use of oral history materials, and i mentioned that there's this beautiful display at the hoover library. at the most recent library, the george w. bush library, they are not oral -- but they are typed for the most part, i think, into a computer, but if you visit
there, you can include your story in the story of the bush years, which i think is exciting to see how they archive that material. another thing not paid great attention to is a section of the libraries i did not mention in my quick rundown, which i call the culture legality. so in most if not all the presidential libraries, there is a big space where the visitor sees film posters, listen to music, and look at video clips of movies, all in the interest
of soaking up the time period. i find these culture galleries in general not so effective, and the reason is that they are kind of a sensory bombardment, you know, you have very small samples of influential artwork of one kind or another, and it's just a little overwhelming to the senses. what would be interesting, i think, is to step back from that approach to the culture of the time period and really think about being more selective and choosing particularly
influential pieces for the visitor to get a broader sample of. so maybe you get to see an entire scene from a film, or you get to hear maybe with head phones, maybe not, you get to hear an entire song from the billboard list. i think that's one way through art to get at diversity. the other thing some of the libraries are doing in terms of thinking about democracy and civic participation is thinking about the role that the institution of the presidential library itself plays in civic actions so one thing to note often mentioned as a virtue of
the presidential libraries is they are not here in washington, d.c. they are all over the country, and they are in, some in big cities, small town, they have that structure influence also in that they are available to people who otherwise might not be able to see them, so some models of the kind of institutional thinking about civic actions that i'm thinking of are most famously the carter center, developed at the same time as the carter library and is on the same campus, and you
can learn about what they do and how people become involved in their humanitarian work around the world, and another example of this is in the first george bush library. at the end of the exhibit, they have an electronic system set up by which you can choose an issue that concerns you at the community level, and you can type that issue into the computer and the computer prints out organizations -- i can't remember if it's in your zip code or how they chart the territory, but local organizations that are working on that issue.
you can leave with a printout of places you can call to get involved, and then, finally, a library that's thinking a great deal about itself as an institution and what its role might be in strengthening communities through civic participation is the obama library. which, of course, doesn't exist yet. consistent with his work, early work as a community organizer, i think the board and the people at the foundation are are really from the get-go thinking about what can we actually do in this space that can make change in the world around us and support
people in the world immediately around us. so with that i will close. i have not talked bowel the title of the book. i'm happy to talk about that, and, of course, there's lots and lots of other great examples of things libraries are doing. i will leave it there and turn to you for questions. [ applause [ applause ] i've been told to tell you there's microphones on either side for you to be heard asking questions. >> thank you for your talk
today, i'm a college student here in the area, and i've been greatly interested in presidential history for several years. one thing i find to be particularly interesting is that the roosevelt library, the fdr library was dedicated when he was still in office, and i believe that's the only presidential library which existed when its subject was still in office. do you think the fact that president roosevelt was still in office -- do you think that the fact that president roosevelt was still in office influenced the roosevelt library in any major way? >> that's a really interesting question. i don't know. well, it influenced the library in very one concrete way is that
roosevelt used his office in that library. so there's that. in terms of the -- what i'm guessing you're really asking about which is the content of the displays and that kind of thing, i'm not sure it influenced in a different way than any other of the presidents who were still alive when the library was being built, but interesting to think about.
you were first, go ahead. >> thank you. i study presidential libraries, so that's why i'm here. i was going to ask you the question, that you left us with, where does the title of the lecture and performance -- if you could tie the performance in the title and, also, in your ph.d. degree so i can make this -- >> also what? >> in your ph.d. degree. >> oh, yeah, sure. so my background is in a discipline called performance studies, which is different from theater studies. performance studies is discipline that looks at and defines performance extremely broadly, so the discipline is interested, so, linking to the book, interested in how the
libra libraries invite us to behave when we're there. i'm interested in the role they create for the president. the role they create for the citizen, and, as i said towards the end, i'm interested in how the institutions themselves act in the world. does that clarify? >> my question was, how did you get interested in doing this, basically, so -- >> so, i need a better story for this, but i'll tell you that i had the opportunity to -- thanks to the person i was dating at the time who is now my husband, who is here. i had the opportunity to go to the clinton library pretty soon
after it opened, so it was a thing people were doing is going to the -- oh -- going to the clinton library, and i found it fascinating, and the first question i will when i came out of it was, gee, i wonder what the reagan library is like, because, he's the other two-term president that we've had in my memory. so i had the idea of going to the reagan library, and, initially, just writing a little article or something that was looking at them. indeed, it's dramatically different in a billion ways from the clinton library, and,
actually, there is a cast democrat bo-- that compares the two libraries, but once i got started, i just became fascinated by more than just the displays. i became interested in the history and in the division of l labor between the foundation and the national archives, and, oh, one other thing is that there existed at the time only one study of presidential libraries, came out in 2006. that study is written by a historian, and the title of it is "presidential temples", and you can glean from that title
that this was a historian who was very dissatisfied with the presidential libraries as history. it seemed to me he had interesting things to say, and particularly interesting things to say about the truman library, but it seemed to me that they were interested in more than just telling about the history, which leads to the question of performance, so i wanted i thought that my background in training gave me a perspective on what they were doing in the landscape besides just narrating history. long answer.
>> thank you. i'm not from the united states, i'm from the caribbean. what i'm interested in is another thought, you touched on it, the george w. bush library, the gulf war. two questions. first question is, the change that this brought about in nixon library concerning watergate, did that come about because of activities from inside, what was shown and felt that was really not showing, you know, as best as you can balance or what was going on inside during that time? first question. second question is concerning the relationship, of course, united states presidents and starting out in the 20th century, became not just president of the united states, but presidents of the entire world. the united states became the dominant power, so how do you
think these libraries show the u.s. role in the world, for example, you talked about the johnson library, how does that show the controversy surrounded vietnam or nixon, and is -- in it -- opportunity afforded in these libraries, not only to u.s. citizens, but people from the outside, right, countries in which the united states had impact, to talk a little bit about the experiences concerning that presidency? tell from an american standpoint, thank you very much. >> remind me of the first question? >> the change that -- if you remember -- talked about the nixon library -- >> yes, yes. >> of consequence, and that can be talked about in obama because i saw that in the work you talk
about the press, right, and the notion of the library being a way to further deepen democracy and radicalize and change society,problems, but a problem in the sense, if it's my library, i wanted to show me in a a good light, obviously, right? that's the balance you have. how do you think those things play out, and which library that you have gone to comes closest to the notion, the clinton library, what do you think. those are the questions. >> okay. thank you. so i would love to say that the change in the nixon library came about through grassroots revolution, but, in fact, that's really not what happened. really what was at stake in that
protract protracted conversation/argument was really nixon's place in history, and the strong sense that some of his -- some of his supporters had that if he was excluded from this set of institutions that was now a fairly robust set of institutions that were tie together, that his legacy might be diminished by the exclusion, so if it met having to tell a more complex and somewhat less flattering story, that it was worth doing that in order to be
included in, but that was not the discussion among visitors, and, in fact, people who visited the library as a private library tended to be nixon supporters, and, therefore, tended to be perfectly happy with the private exhibit as it was. but it was really -- colleagues and supporters of the president and how to preserve the legacy best. in terms of theater oppressed, such a great question. first thing that comes to mind, the eisenhower display.
really, in the grand scheme of things it's not very really radical, but in the context of the presidential libraries, the idea of really delving into, and that exhibit could be bigger, deeper, but the idea of really giving space and air time to communities not doing so well urn the eisenhower presidency, i think is an important contribution, and, yeah, i think my hope is that the obama library will go further in that direction, and i guess the carter center too, certainly, if you're talking about interaction
between the u.s. and other countries internationally, the carter center does that more than any other institution in the system. >> just a comment and question, and the comment, piggy backs on the statement that you entertain how the landscape, what the landscape of presidential libraries says about the library and president, perhaps, and the nixon library, and at the end of the exhibit, you see the tomb of the mr. and mrs. nixon, there is a little house you can tour that's his childhood home. i assumed they moved the home to the library site, but i was told that, no, he chose the site of his childhood home for the library, which i thought was just interesting.
interesting statement about him, that i wouldn't be surprised, but my question is, i understand that the libraries are a partnership between private and public. do the -- does the public funding stop when the government takes over or do they continue to work together. >> answer is the latter, that they continue to work together. the national archives has a lot of the administrative responsibilities, the presidential foundation does things like they run the gift shop. they pay for certain exhibits that are above and beyond the scope of the presidential library, for example, the most obviously example is at the reagan library, there is this
air force 1 exhibit, where you walk into this glass enclosed room, and air force 1 is sitting there before you, and you can go in it, and that exhibit was paid for by the foundation. one of the things i say in the book is that i think the libraries could be clearer about that, about who is supporting what pieces of the story, but, yeah. and the -- the foundations, there's a, you know, institutional relationship between -- that's ongoing between the foundation and the library. >> so i wanted to talk -- oh, or make some comment or just respond to your question about having more and more people visit the museums at the libraries, and also people who represent much more of the fabric of american life. so i just stumbled into them,
and probably because i was ol r older, had more time, and i passed through kansas, but there's a a lot of people who travel and don't take the path to abeline, kansas, for example. i was struck, you recently came to washington, d.c., visiting the library yesterday, i was at the american history museum, and we spent a lot of time in the presidential area there, and each of the presidents was listed, and there was some children next to me, and they made some comments, and it occurred to me that we have that wonderful display there, that can't possibly give the kind of context that each of these lives is. because, together, they tell the story of america. each one representing about only a decade in many cases. then i was at the portrait museum, and the same thing, wonderful portraits, just taken me a lifetime, i'm sure, to collect all the stories, but i'm wondering if, perhaps, we could get more visibility about the
libraries and their existence by just making some connections among our own existing organizations, so that if the -- within the smithsonian, just referring to the existence of these things, it may sound pretty simplistic because i understand they are just like the previous -- your previous answer. these are complicated organizations. all of these are complicated organizations, but i think there's just a question of not knowing they exist. so i was wondering if you think it's the complexity of organizations that keeps people from even knowing about them? >> i don't think so. the national archives has made efforts in that direction, one really simple, but very concrete one is that now when you walk into any one of the libraries, you get a little pamphlet that says here's all the presidential libraries, and you should go see them, and that seems super
obvious, but it was not the case ten years ago. also, on the web, they are making more connections. there's a presence of -- a visible presence of the national archives, and an ease of getting from one library to the other on the web that didn't used to be there, so i know they are aware of that. i think the idea of linking to other kinds of institutions is an interesting one. also, something in what you said made me want to mention that there's a chapter in the book about failure, and about the representation of presidential failure in the museums. and one of the things i'm arguing is that it's actually a great service to visitors to
include those stories, and i guess i would just plug if you have not been to the ford library, there's some actually, in general, any of the libraries that deal with one term presidents, sort of by definition, have to deal with the failure of being re-elected. although, it didn't always used to be thought of that way. i found myself really interested in the one term presidential libraries, even though i started out looking at these two term libraries. i think part of the reason is, chronologically speaking, there is a shorter story to tell. i think the potential for depth is greater at those libraries.
okay. thank you so much. [ applause ] it resulted in a naval victory for the u.s. over japan just six months after pearl harbor. friday, american history tv will be live all day for the 75th anniversary of the battle of midway. elliott carlson with his book, anthony tully, co-author of "shattered sword, " and
timothy orr. watch the battle of midway 75th anniversary special, live from virginia on friday beginning at 9:35 a.m. eastern on american history tv on c-span 3. 2017 marks the centennial of the u.s. entry into world war i. up next, "men of bronze," a 1977 film about an all-black unit who won distinction serving with the french army. the story is told through several interviews with world war i veterans themselves. >> henry jones, and roberts,
they were holding out a certain section up there, and we all had listen posts. i'll explain, this is nothing like the korean or vietnam. the troops are holding a trench, every night they had a post set, maybe 200, 300 feet from the main body in the trench. and every night, they put two men out there just to listen, and warn there was going to be a sneak attack. but of course, the germans were doing the same thing. this particular night, henry johnson, one of the greatest heroes, even greater than -- which everybody knows him, out there, these germans attack the
listen post. approximately 24 germans attacked him. roberts got slugged almost immediately, and johnson fought them off. he shot, caught, and swung his rifle around, defeated the 24 germans. he had 21 wounds in his body, but he refused to die. we got out there in the morning, they weren't dead, and both lived through it. sorry to say, today, they're both gone. most all of them are gone. i'm 75 years old, and i was only 17 then. so, it ain't many guys that were 25 or 30 that are here to contradict what i'm telling you.
congress voted to declare war on germany on april 6th, 1917, entering the u.s. into world war i. next, a panel of authors and historians looks at what motivated the u.s. to get involved in what was then called the great war. some of the reasons discuss ed include the influence of british propaganda, as well as the zimmerman telegram, an intercepted telegram between germany and mexico that proposed an alliance between the two countries, and promised mexico territory in the southwest u.s. analysts also talk about president woodrow wilson's decision making progress in asking congress to declare war. the world war i centennial commission organized this 45-minute event. it took place at the national world war i museum and memorial in kansas cityss