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tv   The Presidency White House History  CSPAN  April 28, 2019 8:00pm-8:51pm EDT

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television and online come c-span is your unfiltered view of government, so you can make up your own mind. next on the presidency, white house historical association historians matthew costello and lindsay chervinsky talk about their jobs and the history and preservation of the executive mansion. senior historian of the white house historical association. i have read you wrote or said that the white house touches on almost every facet of american history. what did you mean by that and give me some examples? matthew: i always see the white house as a place where you can study american history through a wide variety of perspectives and lenses. if you are interested in the people, and you can learn more about the people who live there, the people who work there, the people who built it, the people who ever a paired it, if you are interested in looking let -- at things like artifacts, serial
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culture, paintings, fine arts, decorative arts, the white house has all of those things as well. politics, policy obviously, that is the big one people think about. culture, ors of pop political culture, understanding the white house is a symbol for american democracy. and how that symbol has changed and evolved over time. it says a lot about who we are, the american identity itself, and i think all of these different ways of studying the white house touches on all of these different things that you may not get in a traditional american history textbook. but if you dig deeper, there is an incredible history beneath the surface. host: lindsay chervinsky, a white house historian and new in the role there, we will spend time with both of you learning about your work and about the association. i want to ask you to give the elevator speech about the
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association, how i got started and what its mission is? association was founded by jacqueline kennedy to preserve and protect the history of the white house. and share that history with the american people more broadly. since then, we have worked on that mission to try and cultivate the white house, the first floor especially, as a museum for the people to tell the story of the white house and the story of the nation -- of the nation and make it more accessible for visitors that come through. host: why the first floor specifically? isdsay: the first floor referred to as the state floor. it has the historic rooms when we think of the color rims, red room, greenroom, blue room, east room. that is where the big events that we think of typically in american history have taken place. where a lot of the famous diplomats and guests were greeted. and where a lot of the interactions day to day, both in terms of the workers and people who live there to play.
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that is the room where we focus -- that is the floor that we focus on. it is filled with beautiful and art thatniture represent the white house's history more broadly, but also from parts of the american experience. thatve american landscapes showcase all of the different wonderful landscapes available in the nation, also key moments in u.s. history as well. host: do you have an official role with the white house? matthew: we are the private nonpar -- nonprofit partner that works with the white house. when i explain it to people, think of it almost like a foundation with an educational mission. because the federal government only will appropriate money essentially for the maintenance and upkeep of the building. if you want the state of florida to have presidential portraits, state services, historic artifacts that are returned to the white house, all of that has to be raised privately because there is no taxpayer money is
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for those things. host: do you have a say as to what pieces are in the white house? how does that work? matthew: there is a group called the committee of for the preservation of the lighthouse. it consists of the major heads of various federal agencies like the smithsonian, white house curator, head of the national park service. there is a number of presidential appointees that serve on the committee. the association works for the reservation of the white house to acquire things, but also for various renovation projects. bushfirst lady laura decided to renovate the lincoln bedroom in 2004-2005, the association helped fund the project itself but also the research that went into it. host: it is called an association. do people the long as members? matthew: we do have a membership program. it is for the ground by leaps and bounds. for we tell people is that
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a modest fee, i think it is $50, that they can help us preserve and enhance the executive mansion for future generations. goes toward public programming, education initiatives, our quarterly journal. but also probably our most popular publication, the is somethingch that was thought up by first lady jacqueline kennedy. we are moving into our 25th addition. host: and of course, the white house christmas ornaments. which has been around probably 30 plus years now i would think. they used to be the primary way the association raised money, is that right? lindsay: yes. it is still part of our fundraising plan. it is a wonderful ornament. there is one every year that represents a different presidency. this year we are celebrating president dwight d eisenhower. it usually has some sort of theme relating to their presidency. this year is the helicopter because president eisenhower was the first president to ride in a
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helicopter. host: you came to the association with a relatively new president. tell me the story of how you you are associated previously. then he recruited here. i would like to hear that story. matthew: i first met stuart many years ago when i was at mount vernon doing research. my dissertation was on george washington's tomb and the memory of george washington in the 19th century. i started researching there in 2012. 2011. it was before they had the fly very. at that point, the staff and materials were crammed into the administration building. it was tight quarters. we inevitably crossed paths. i asked if he wanted to grab coffee sometime. we kept in contact. then i continued in my graduate studies. he left mount vernon, and then
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he ended up landing at the white house historical association and then two years later, i defended my dissertation on washington. about five months later, i got a phone call, and he said there is a history in position open. would you consider applying? i said, absolutely. i was moving it, to washington, d.c. to start at the association. in fall of 2016. host: you discovered yourself in the same article as self taught more or less on the white house history because there is not an existing graduate program. matthew: unfortunately. i think lindsay, she is going through the growing pains of this right now. lindsay: in process. when we go into these very specific graduate programs, oftentimes we end up writing about a research topic that is very specific, very narrow and focused. our scholarly training reflects that.
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we are experts on early american history, that was our training. now, being a white house historian, the story of the white house does not end in 1820, it continues and changes and evolves. all of a sudden, you find yourself using all of your knowledge of american history and starting to connect the dots. in terms of major changes in american society or demographic or economic changes. you can see these things unfolding at the white house. of those things where you do not really learn the depths of the history until you get into the job, then you realize how incredibly complicated and complex it actually is. host: what is your story, how did you get to the association? lindsay: we were both at mount vernon as follows. we were there for an extended period of time. dissertation on my on washington, a different aspect. we stayed friends and touched
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base occasionally about what we were up to. i had a postdoctoral fellowship at the presidential history in dallas. that was coming to an end. they happened to have an opening. matt called me and said hey, we have this position coming up, would you like to apply? i said sure. it all worked out and i started in february. i was very fortunate that that, as many historians know, the job market is not particularly great. i feel fortunate to be able to do history work for a living which i love. into work in a place that is really fantastic. host: how many historians does the association have on staff? matthew: the two. host: the two of you! matthew: you have us all in the room. we do have a fellows program with american university. , one ofhe academic year their public history masters students will work with us as a assistantshi
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. it is like we have three historians on staff. we are always bringing in students from other programs. this summer, we will have a doctoral student from george washington university. we have brought students from ufc. newre always trying to get perspectives and experiences and also students from different parts of the country who can come and learn, and work with us in d.c. host: our network has a long association with bill seale, white house historian. what role does he play with the work you do? matthew: bill is primarily based out of texas. we usuallyes up, have a few conversations about what we are working on and what he is doing. he is very inquisitive. he likes to make sure we have looked into all of the sources he knows about. host: he is an encyclopedia. matthew: sometimes when we look for information, we can't find it on the internet. the best place is to write an
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email to bill. chances are he knows or he knows where to look. bill, i have been at the association for two and a half years, and bill has been a great mentor in terms of committees of the places you should start looking and these are the things he should start reading. i have tried to take that up and impressed that on lindsay. lindsay: for new people when they come on, the first thing handed to them is his master work on white house history, which is right now in two volumes on we are coming up with a third volume. working through that is so much information already in such a great place to start. he is always our starting point for learning about the history. host: do you find it slightly ironic that as historians, your specialists in george washington -- of george washington and he was the only president not to live in the white house? lindsay: yes. matthew: it is ironic.
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we have to make a joke about it or else people will snicker around the sides. it is interesting that here we are, thus lindsay: he put a big stamp. host: what did he do specifically? lindsay: first and foremost, he selected the site of where it would be. he selected the city and where they house was going to be within the city. he had a surveyor's training and background and enjoyed partaking in that as a hobby when he was older. he came to d.c., surveyed the entire area and selected the spot. ine the spot was selected the process was in place, he picked which design was going to be implemented, and he worked with all of the various architects. hoban made it happen. he met with the james hoban before selecting his design. i suspect, but there is no record, i suspect he said, here are the things i'm looking for
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for his presidents house in philadelphia, he had a bow window added to the reception rooms, which i think he then had brought into the white house in the oval drawing rooms we see. there are certain architectural elements he absolutely brought to the white house. you want people -- what do you want people to know about washington's association to the white house? matthew: i see the white house essentially as a primary source. if you study the evolution and the changes in architecture and the materials used, the laborers, the designers, commissioners, it traces back to one source. and it is president washington. even though he did not live in the house, he built a house, like he was going to live in it. that is not to suggest washington wanted to be president forever, it is to suggest he thought the president's house needed to represent the head of the state for a strong new republic. that was the vision he had for that house.
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even though he had no intention of living there. it was interesting seeing the dynamic of back-and-forth between him and jefferson. jefferson had a different idea of what the house should look like. but lindsay as she alluded to, there was not much in washington, d.c. at that time. it was mostly farmland, swamps, marshes. to put this incredibly striking stone building in the middle of the national capital was to send a message to the rest of the world that the united states president should be respected and it should be a symbol that is treasured by its people. host: while we are on the subject of george washington, you mentioned your dissertation which is on his tomb and the creation of memory of george washington. you have been out talking to people about that. how do you link that book which is specific to a president who did not live there and a tomb at mount vernon with the work you are doing at the association? matthew: i really see washington
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as the linchpin between those things. also a connection with the u.s. capitol as well because at one point, there was a plan to into washington in the united states capital within the crypt. he wanted -- they wanted to have an open air hole in the rotunda and a statue of washington and then washington entombed below. there were plans and designs at himerent moments to entomb in the nation's capital. i see the washington monument pass the white house which became the substitute in the 19th century for memorializing washington. if they were not going to move his body, they wanted to build something magnificent. the washington monument standing at 555 feet tall, it was pretty incredible for its time. i think it ended up taking 40 years just to complete. host: what was the focus of your research? lindsay: my book is called "the
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president: george washington and the creation of an american institution." it looks at how the cabinet came about. it is an institution we are familiar with. a very public thing but not in the constitution. it was not created by any legislation. my book set about asking where did it actually come from? the answer is that washington created it about two and a half years into his presidency to provide advice and support when constitutional questions came up or diplomatic crises. to be ay was intended private advisory body for the president to use as he saw fit. the cabinetonvened in his private study and the presidents house. in the presidents followed him -- following him followed that model. it has continued to meet in the white house and both public and since then.
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that is the story of my book and how it connect to this broader story. host: it is not on the public tour but as people have a rare opportunity to see whether cabinet meets, where is it? lindsay: the cabinet room has meant in a number of different places. in jefferson's presidency, it meant in his private study which is part of the state dining room. it then moved upstairs for quite some time, lincoln and all of the 19th century presidents met in the cabinet room upstairs. now, i believe it is in the west wing. host: by the oval office. matthew: right. adjacent to the road skirting. -- rose garden. it was a residence, an office, a place the public came regularly, what period of time would it have been a functioning office for the president in -- in the residence part? matthew: as lindsay said, most of the 19th century, the
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presidents would have used that second-floor space which was technically part of the residents in the private -- and the prize it -- private quarters. on the east side of the hall, those were presidential staff was located. presidencies and administrations grew larger and larger and more staff were touired, by the time you get 1900, it is when there is not space. staff needs more room. it is when the door roosevelt becomes president in 1901, 1 of the things he is going to do is build the wrestling. he will molly's the conservative -- he will demolish the conservatory. what they will build is the first iteration of the west wing. he will not have an oval office and the william howard taft introduces that later. that is where the president's office will be. the cabinet room will be moved over. the white house becomes more, at least the second floor, more of a home as opposed to being a
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shared space for much of the 19th century. host: that is a subject of your next book i have heard. what aspects of it will you be looking at? matthew: i want to tell the story of that renovation through the roosevelt family. because i think there is a misconception that theodore roosevelt did everything himself. rooseveltedith contributes to a lot of his different ideas and policies. when they moved into the white house, she drew this diagram of where the children were sleeping on the second floor. she put her office, which was the second floor oval room, and it is next door to the president's office. they shared a door. when he goes down to see the digging of the panama canal, who does he bring with him? edith roosevelt. of first lady responsibilities, you see something shifting at the turn-of-the-century. a differentd relationship. it was something that they treated each other much more like partners and equals when it
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came to things like politics, but also family. host: women still cannot vote at that time. matthew: exactly. this is a you look -- question for both, when you look at the history of the white house, which presidents were most influential in changing the building to what we know today? the roosevelts, both of them, are huge. fdr was in the white house for a long time. he was going to have a huge impact. after him, truman oversaw a huge renovation. i also think jackson was a huge player, under jackson's presidency, the first time the east room is finished properly. that is a huge moment. i woulding backwards, say the combination of madison and monroe, the white house burned in 1814 during the war of 1812. it rebuilt in making sure stayed in washington, d.c. which
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was not questioned, it was -- which was questioned. refinishing it to be a proper house of state, that was a huge decision and had a huge impact. host: how much of a white house that people get to see today is original? matthew: are we talking about sandstone walls? [laughter] matthew: going off of what lindsay said, when truman does the renovation, he essentially, the building is gutted. they try to save different materials to reuse them. some can be salvaged but others can't. this is when they start the souvenir program and are giving people bits and pieces of the white house to purchase. the exterior walls remained standing because it was important to truman that the white house is a symbol, that the white exterior saves -- stays. he was a freemason, he appreciated the craftsmanship. when he rebuilt the white house, he also heads -- he also added some basements.
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and only looks like it is two stories when it is about six stories. that addition, the other thing to keep in mind with one of the things truman really wanted to do, he did not want to change anything drastically as it had been from the 1902 renovation. the only major change he did was the grand staircase. -- teddyosevelt roosevelt's time, the staircase went out into the hallway. very conducive for people wanting to see the president and first lady descendents stairs. has theed it so it viewing platform so they can get their picture taken, then they come out in the entrance hall which is a wider space. that is the only major change that truman approves of during the renovation. host: was it tough door arthur who installed the tiffany glass? your head. nodding something later presidents were happy to rip out. lindsay: i know.
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i guess the tiffany screen was destroyed in a fire which is sad because it was supposed to be absolutely beautiful. host: and it was a windscreen? matthew: yes. it was put as a divide between the entrance hall and the cross hall. martin van buren had a different to stop glass earlier some of the wind. the north entrance, that was the primary entrance. people were coming through. to enhance the beauty of the white house, even though he was not elected president. just sort of happened with the assassination of garfield that he was not president. he had this high new york taste. host: it was victorian times. matthew: right. unfortunately, there is no color photography. host: what a shame. of the scream -- screen or other decorum. we can imagine it must have been spectacular. host: was it with jacqueline
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kennedy that it became thought of as a museum, as opposed to a place where each president could get to decorate it as they wished and soffit? lindsay: -- saw fit? lindsay: some of the first ladies and presidents had a better sense of history than others. that lived families there really tried to incorporate the history or preserve the items. and bring in portraits or art or furniture they felt was really important. it was not until jackie kennedy that it actually became part of the mission and really became a function of the house. they really started an effort to bring back in items that would have been there throughout the many centuries. host: how has -- you have something? matthew: i think it is one of those things where the historical consciousness of the residence is something that slowly grew over time. i would say more in the late 19th century, that is when -- like caroline harrison, she was interested in the china service at the white house.
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she came up with a plan to display the china, but passed away before it could take place. the wilson's,she came up with ao display the china, alan wilson d then eat if wilson followed up on the project and made sure that the china room was created and people could see different pieces of various presidential state services. toyou move forward, you get grace coolidge, lou hoover, both of which are very interested in the collection of antiques, but then also cataloguing what the white house already has. by the time you get to jacqueline kennedy, that is when there is this question of, should the white house have this museum standard? and that means having a full staff on board, having a preservation committee to help with renovation projects. that is where we see the turn. it was something that was building for 50 years before that. host: what is your very favorite spot in the white house? same question for you. matthew: my very favorite spot?
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i would say the blue room. the shape obviously. there, asrniture in an early americanist, i appreciate especially things from early america. james monroe essentially became president and he does not even have an executive mansion to move into because it is still being rebuilt by james hoban after the fire. when he decides he is going to redecorate, he brings in this 53 piecesd suite, made of the beachwood. it is gilded and it is actually outfitted in red, the blue room did not become blue until van buren's administration. furniture.acular it would have been something that americans would have never seen before in the states. but monroe really wanted to project this persona about the power of the presidency, the
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power of the united states. it was pretty bold. also considering the white house had just been burned. always saw it as monroe was looking forward, not backward. and that he wanted the white house to represent what he believed the presidency should be. feel how did americans about their president having anything french at that time? we have gone through various iterations of our feeling about being focused on america versus internationalist. matthew: i was going to say, james monroe was really popular. not a lot of people want to speak out about it. after he left office, congress passed a law in 1826 mandating that any furniture that is purchase for the presidents house be a menu -- an american manufacturer. host: some things never change. was a swipee say it at monroe or john quincy adams who came into office and had a different level of popularity? was probably more a reflection of the changing times.
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you are in the mid 1820's now, the united states, in terms of blossomedhip, had since 1800. there is a question of is is is supposed to be representation of who we are as americans, shouldn't the things inside the house be made by americans? host: what is your favorite place in the white house? lindsay: i think my favorite room is probably the green room. i love the color. i love the landscapes that are featured. i also love, there is currently john adams tea set in the greenroom. it is this view to fall silver tea stand that has the presidents house, and you could have poured water out of it. i think it is an incredible nod to the history of the house, president adams was the first president that lived in the white house. i think it is mind boggling that it still exists and is in such great condition. that room i really love. i also really like the state
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dining room. not because of necessarily how it is now, although it is lovely, but that corner of the room is where jefferson's private study was and where he had his cabinet meetings. i think my next book will be looking at adams and jefferson's cabinets. that space really holds a special spot in my heart because it does not exist really anymore like it did look at the time. trying to imagine what it was is a special thing. host: both of you have only working with a trump administration. hard to compare with press presidents. but you said each administration brings their own different sense of history. administration. what about the level of interest that the trump's have and the history of the mansion? how have they express that in working with you and others? matthew: the first lady has worked with us in terms of the egg roll coming up. that is something that the association is now sponsoring,
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and we helped them in terms of the logistics of the egg roll, but also rolling out the history behind the egg roll and the commemorative wooden eggs. that is something that we sell to help support our mission. but then it is like any first family when they first move in. they have these questions about who used this room upstairs, or how past administrations used this particular dining space? how did they deck rate it? really it is being on hand to help answer those types of questions. historical level of interest. i think any time someone moves somewhere that has that type of legacy attached to it, you can't help but a little built curious about what the predecessors, or former residents did, or where they played or what they did in their spare time. we are on hand to answer those times of he is.
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host: we are talking about the egg roll. what is the history of it? matthew: egg rolling was part of. we know that andrew johnson had small one. the first time the ground were opened to the public was durp the hayes administration. prior to that, children were rolling eggs over at the capitol. it was after congress had appropriated a lot of money to re-landscape the ground. they decided they had enough, and they passed legislation inhibitting the public use of the ground. in 1877 there was a lot of rain, so they didn't have to worry about problem. but in 1878 there was a question about whether or not people would be allowed on the grounds. president hayes said we have plenty of room on the south side of the white house. i will just open the gates to
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the public. since then it is longest running annual event in white house history. there have been different periods where the egg roll has been canceled, usually related post or foot rationing world war ii. >> who brought the commemorative wooden eggs to process? lindsay: the wooden eggs starred with president reagan. they started out handing out the eggs from him or nancy reagan or other movie stars were there. the other first families grappled with the reality of real eggs. the wooden egg is a nice idea because it gives all of the participants, the children that are there, a memento to take home. there are a number of other wonderful traditions. so the idea of a staff member dressing up as the easter bunny started with a member of first
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lady pat nixon's staff. and depending on who it is each year, sometimes it is announced and sometimes it is not announced who it is. sometimes presidential pets show up and play a role. there are a lot of lovely aspecting that have taken place over the history of the egg roll. host: i think about your work as historians. there is a bit of tension in your field between academic historians and popular history. your job requires to you bridge both. how do you do that? matthew: that is an excellent question. what it comes down to is making history more accessible to more people. you can consider yourself a scholar, but also you can rye popular history. it is one of those things that requires a lot of effort, patience and practice. the beauty of this job because we do so much in terms of programming, outreach and
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social media is that we are constantly writing, editing and researching new things that people haven't heard before and presenting it to a wide variety of audiences. i feel like even though in a way my formal training was more academic in nature, that this job has kind of smoothed out those edges a little built, and i have just better as a writer and speak tore different grooms of people. lindsay: i have always kind of rejected that distinction. i think that really good history appeals to both public and scholarly audiences, and it is just a matter of how you package it. i have actually found it easy tore speak to popular audiences, and it took me longer to get the scholarly framework going. but i think we can take the same history, we can take the same stories and maybe talk a little more about how it fits in the scholarly argument if we are submitting it to a journal,
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or we are speaking at a ps conference to our peers. but the same stories, people and arguments can really appeal to a broad number of people. that is really my favorite thing about this job, is that i get to do both of those things, because i really didn't want to do one or the other, and i if felt like, especially with some of the storylines we come across, it would be a shame if we didn't get them out to a broader public or get them to share them with scholars who don't necessarily know about them. i think that is really one of the challenges but one of the best parts about it as well. host: one of the ways you have been actively involving more people is through social media. talk about that. lindsay: i love social media. really good historians need to embrace the power of social media. it is a great tool to get in peel's pocket. as they are going home and scrolling on twitter or instagram, it is a gray way to break down the barriers of what people think history is, and that it doesn't always have to
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be super serious or in text books, and that there are fun moments. but i also think it is a great way to reach out to new audiences, to come across new people. discovered a ve ton of history myself and great scholars and projects, and networking, and getting to know ch other and engaging in things. there is a dark side to social media, but i think it can be an amazing tool. ost: tell me about john quincy dog adams. lindsay: that is my dog. he is an american foxhound. interestingly i rescued him, and then i found out that george washington created the american foxhound breed. foxhounds and french foxhounds that has been given to me.
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he is my light. he is worst. sometimes i dress him up in historical costumes. i have a picture of him in a top hat and bow team in front of the lincoln memorial and a picture of him in a hat in front of mount vernon. another fun way to get people interested in history. host: you are also teaching a course. so you are bringing it to the classroom and try to interest a new generation of students, perhaps moving on to that doctoral program in white house history. tell me about the carlos you have created, where you are teaching it and what kind of students are interested in it. >> i taught a plot course last year at american university. we had 17 students who had a variety of majors and backgrounds. communications, international service, history majors, and also political science majors. as you kind of expected, those students that have these
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different interests that related to the white house. i divided up the semester based on the idea of the white house as a home, as an office, as a museum, as a stage, sort of these different units so that students could wrap their heads around that that building historically has been used to a variety of different purposes, and that today what we see is a far crew from what the white house was used for in the 19th century. the goal that i really had with the course was to teach students white house history, to give them a general understanding, but also to help them sort of see the connections and the interplay between american history and what has happened at 1600 pennsylvania avenue. host: and will it continue? do you know? matthew: we are hope to go continue it this coming fall. stay tuned. host: we will stay tuned. how often into you interact with the press? matthew: i would say fairly
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often. lindsay: a lot. matthew: i would say at least a couple of times a week we are both either doing interviews, or writing e-mails to reporters , or helping people with different research questions. but we really see it as a core part of our job. because it is not just us doing history for our own sake, but it is also helping people that are trying to accurately convey that history in different outlets on platforms. host: can you think of the most perplexing, usual question you have ever gotten from a member of the media? lindsay: i actually suspect i am going for get it later today. dad time doing a podcast on ghost stories in the white house. i figure that question will come up later. it shoals you how many wonderful assets you can get at with the white house and all the different wales that you can tell history. host: and do you have a particular question you remember someone calling you from the media that you were like wow, what did this come from?
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matthew: i have gotten some strange ones. i think most recently one i did one on st. patrick's days traditions. it is one of those things that sass holiday that some presidents celebrate very vibrantly and others just kind of carry on with their normal duty. i think this reporter didn't understand that not every president celebrates by wearing green and eating corned beef and hash. but it is one of those things where it all depends on the personality of the person in office. host: why am i thinking of ronald reagan? matthew: he loved st. patrick's day. i love the story we snuck off d went to alexandria to have a traditional lunch, and they didn't notify the tap earn tavern owner until
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45 minutes before. some presidents celebrate it, and others it is just another day at the office. host: how has security changed the work that historians do and changed the whole idea of the white house? matthew: the security of the building itself has also changed drastically in addition to what information is accessible and what can historians write about. the presidential libraries remain sort of the key source. if you are looking at anything from administrations going back to franklin rofmente. before then, presidential papers were kept by families, or they ended up at the library of congress where they were donated to universities. it was more scatter shot with what happened with a lot of these documents. so in terms of what we can or cannot write about, i would just say that, generally speaking, the public is interested in these changes in security, and protocol and the installation of the service.
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these are things that people are genuinely interested about. but it hasn't inhibited what we can or cannot write about. i think it is just one of those things where people just want to do a little bit more about how that process evolved and what things were installed by who. lindsay: i think it is a really important part of our daily experience, though, in the president's neighborhood. >> lucky enough to work in the decatur house. we are on lafayette square. we are obviously there. some days pennsylvania avenue is open and available to walk down, and some days it is not. that really is helpful for me to get a sense of the day-to-day concerns, or who happens to be visiting, or what that experience is like. and then of course every time we go into the white house to give a tour or to talk about something, we still have to go through the security as well. so it is, i think, a helpful reminder as much as a part of the experience.
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host: the history of the white house is also the history of the neighborhood in which it sits. what are some of the important changes that have happened to that neighborhood that are part of the residence's history? matthew: so the white house was really the first building that was constructed on lafayette square. decatur house was the first ivate residence in 1818, stephen decatur moved in, in 1819. and then the building on the north side. ose are the three landmark buildings that have stayed. since then it has become a square for social protests. really starting i would say organized with the suffrages and that cause with the wilson administration. since then there has been a wide variety of social, political and environmental issues that people take advantage of using that symbol
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to protest what they believe is wrong policy. that has really been around since the 1910's, beginning with the suffrages. host: did you have something to add? lindsay: yes. going back a little built further, one thing i wanted to point out with lafayette square was initially when the white house walking being built, both the enslaved and free work orioles that were building the white house were staying in lafayette square. that was sort of a city of workers and their living quarters, and then their working spaces as well. the neighborhood has changed more drastically. now it is obviously a beautiful place to gather but with a very different experience early in the 19th century. matthew: i was going to say in terms of historical preservation, another one of the things that first lady jacqueline kennedy did was stepping in to ensure that the historic buildings around lafayette square were saved as opposed to them all being
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demolished and office buildings taking their place on the square. that is part of the reason the new office building is behind the row of historic town houses. if you look at an aerial shot of d.c., you have a lot of these higher rise buildings, but lafayette square sort of encapsulates that moment of presidential history where it is much more of the 19th century and what that neighborhood meant to those people, it was a very close-knit community. i think they didn't want to lose that feel even during the kennedy administration because they wanted people to understand that it has always been the president's neighborhood. even if they are building office buildings and complexes around it, that it should always have that feeling when you see it. host: this will be my last question. lindsey's explanation about the enslaved african-americans who were very much a part of construction of the white house. others have been coming to
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grips and retelling the story of their experience with african-americans and the building and running of presidential homes, et cetera. what about that story with the white house? what kind of research has been done to date, and how, if at all, is the story told? matthew: we have been working upon a research initiative at the association to tell the story of slavery in the president's neighborhood, but also the african-american experience in the president's neighborhood. a core component of that is the building of the white house, and the rebuilding of the white house, and the use of enslaved labor to do it. i think that story often gets muddled up a bit. the white house in a sense, it is a historic site, but it is not a historic site. it is sort of a living historic site because every day people are constantly talking about what is unfolding right in front of them, as opposed to what has happened in the past there. it is very much that way
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especially with the tours. one of the things that we want to do is we want to tell that story more about the construction, about the maintenance. but also, african-americans were vital to its operation, it's function and essentially just keeping the white house running. they are integral to the story. but because i feel like there is always a story being written in real time, it is not something that people generally hear about. lindsay: in history books when tend to -- when the whose shouse up, it tends about the president, the family and children. in the 19th century, they brought their own enslaved workers to staff out the house. it was cheap are. after the emancipation, many presidents hired free african-americans to work in the whitehouse as well. there is a very vibrant community in this area. our goal is to tell the stories
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of though he is people and how they often worked in the white house over many presidential administrations and offered continuity even when the president was leaving and coming in. but also to tell sort of the story of the enabled and how these people had a community and really awe base here when a lot of times the politicians were coming in than a out. that is our goal and our hope and something that we are trying to do more, the the decatur house has the only existing urban slave quarterbacks in washington, d.c. that is a really good education tool and something we can use as a jumping off point. host: this makes me think of another question and that is story telling in general. most people already their association up with television programs and movies. w often do you find yourself asked to be a consultant for movies and television shows as
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they are trying to recreate rooms in the white house? matthew: it does happen on occasion. lindsay: not as much as you would think. matthew: i think a big part of this is there is so much information on the internet that i think a lot of people can find that stuff pretty readily accessible, or they rebuilt the old stuff, and they get everything from the ground floor up. but it does happen. off titles we have to think about what kind -- off times we have to think about what kind of programming this is for. is it a documentary or just a program? we have to think about it in terms of what makes the most sense for the association, but also to make sure things are as historically accurate and possible. some people want more help than others, and that can be tough to balance as well. host: you are very new and relatively new in your jobs. long careers ahead of you. we look forward to seeing the results of your work in so many
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different ways. in academic pluckses and the various media we have talked about. >> thank you. >> it was great. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2019] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its captioning content and accuracy. visit] >> from george washington to george w bush, every sunday at we p.m. and mid midnight feature the. si. you are watching american history tv all weekend every weekend on c-span 3. minnesota has selected a democrat in the past four presidential elections. up next we speak with minnesota public radio senior reporter katherine richard about the state's changing electorate and what changes could mean for 2020.


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