ALA responds to National Archive efforts to alter materials

For Immediate Release
Tue, 01/21/2020


Communications and Marketing Office

ALA Media Relations


CHICAGO – The American Library Association (ALA) released the following statement regarding the National Archive’s efforts to alter photographs that include protest signs unflattering to our current administration. Such an act is a violation of the Library Bill of Rights. The Interpretation on Expurgation of Library Resources defines this specific violation as any deletion, excision, alteration, editing, or obliteration of any part of a library resource by administrators, employees, governing authorities, parent institutions, or third party vendors when done for the purposes of censorship.

“It is a fundamental tenet of librarianship that any alteration, deletion, or editing of materials held by a library or archives because of a fear of controversy or because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval is an act of censorship that all information workers are called upon to resist. Removal or alteration of archival materials, if done to conceal truthful material about past persons or events, constitutes an unacceptable erasure of the historical record that impairs our ability to provide accountability for the past, change the future, and acknowledge the truth of our different perspectives and experiences. 

 “We are heartened to see that the National Archives has recognized its mistake in altering photographic images and has taken steps to restore access to the originals. However, ALA cannot allow this very visible act of expurgation to go unremarked. It is an ethical imperative—especially applicable to the information professional charged with preserving the historical record—to resist activities that contribute to erasure, spread misinformation, or impair society's ability to understand the past.

“ALA echoes the statement made by the Society of American Archivists and encourages completion of the policy and procedure review as soon as possible as a signal of the National Archives ongoing commitment to defending accuracy and respect for historical documentation.”

About the American Library Association
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