I was interested to read today that the Nixon Library and Birthplace, which has been privately run since it opened in 1990, is going to become part of the system of presidential libraries run by the National Archives.
What is curious to me is that the new director, Timothy Naftali, says the library will have a "new tone" which is more "balanced."
Naftali enthuses, "What an opportunity to revise Nixon. It's a historian's dream."
I'm a bit skeptical...I suspect we may be simply trading in one particular vision of the President for Naftali's. As a historian, his own opinions and perspectives on the President will surely come into play as he redesigns exhibits. Is true "balance" really possible?
Naftali is interested in putting the Nixon tapes on the Web and in appealing to baby boomers who protested the Vietnam War. While I commend making anything related to Presidential history available on the Web, will he also continue to highlight the President's achievements, along with the more controversial aspects of his Presidency? Showcasing the moon landings in the lobby, another Naftali idea, is one positive possibility.
I have visited five Presidential libraries, and in many ways I found the Nixon Library to be the finest, in terms of both the design of its exhibits and the inclusion of the late President's birthplace and final resting place on the grounds. I personally found the Nixon Library refreshingly candid about President Nixon's successes and failures. I hope Naftali will continue the library's history of excellence and remember that "balance" means telling the entire story -- the good along with the bad.