Alteration of a Photograph of the 2017 Women's March

Nicholas Marritz filed this request with the National Archives and Records Administration of the United States of America.
Tracking #

NARA-NGC-2020-000247

Status
Completed

Communications

From: Nicholas Marritz

To Whom It May Concern:

Pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act, I hereby request the following records:

BACKGROUND

In May 2019, the National Archives opened a public exhibit called "Rightfully Hers: American Women and the Vote." The exhibit celebrates the centennial of women’s suffrage in the United States and includes a 49-by-69-inch photograph of the Women’s March on Jan. 21, 2017, the day after President Trump’s inauguration. In the original version of the photograph, taken by Getty Images photographer Mario Tama, the street is packed with marchers carrying a variety of signs. In the Archives version, at least four of those signs are altered. A sign saying “God Hates Trump” has “Trump” blotted out so that it reads “God Hates.” A sign that reads “Trump & GOP — Hands Off Women” has the word "Trump" blurred out. A sign that reads “If my vagina could shoot bullets, it’d be less REGULATED” has “vagina” blurred out. And another that says “This Pussy Grabs Back” has the word “Pussy” erased.

The Archives said the decision to obscure the words was made as the exhibit was being developed by agency managers and museum staff members. It said that the Archivist of the United States, David S. Ferriero, supports the decision to edit the photo. Archives spokeswoman Mirial Kleiman said in an emailed statement to the Washington Post that the agency blurred references to the President’s name on some posters "so as not to engage in current political controversy." The decision to blur references to women’s genitals was made because the museum hosts many groups of students and young people and the words could be perceived as inappropriate, Kleiman said in the statement.

RECORDS REQUESTED

I respectfully request the following records in NARA's possession, custody, or control. This includes records in the possession, custody, or control of third parties, where NARA has the practical ability to obtain such records.

1. All records related to any alterations of this photograph, proposed alterations of this photograph, or the decision to alter this photograph. Responsive records would include (without limitation) communications about whether and how to alter the photograph, as well as any other versions of the photograph that were proposed or created during the decisionmaking process.

2. Records sufficient to identify any other alterations or proposed alterations of this photograph other than the four instances mentioned above.

3. Records sufficient to identify all other instances in which the Archives altered or contemplated altering a document, photograph, or other record since January 20, 2017 so as not to engage in political controversy.

4. Records sufficient to identify all other instances in which the Archives altered or contemplated altering a document, photograph, or other record since January 20, 2017 because of concerns that the unaltered record might be perceived as inappropriate.

REQUEST FOR FEE WAIVER

Under 36 C.F.R. § 1250.58, I respectfully request that the Agency waive all fees associated with this request because (1) the request is in the public interest (i.e., information likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations and activities of the government); and (2) the request is not primarily in my commercial interest.

Regarding the factors at 36 C.F.R. §1250.60(a):

(1) How do the records pertain to the operations and activities of the Federal Government?

The National Archives and Records Administration is an agency of the federal government. 44 U.S.C. § 2102. My request seeks records related to instances in which NARA intentionally altered records in its custody so as not to engage in political controversy or because of concerns that the unaltered record might be perceived as inappropriate. Therefore, records responsive to this request pertain to the operations and activities of the Federal Government.

(2) Will release reveal any meaningful information about Federal Government activities that is not already publicly known?

Yes. Without knowing what records will be released in response to this request, it is difficult for any requester to guess whether those records will reveal information that NARA deems "meaningful" or that is already publicly known. Nonetheless, my request is reasonably likely to satisfy. NARA admits that it has altered records in one of its public exhibits in order to remove messages critical of the President of the United States, as well as messages regarding women's bodies that NARA deems immoral. NARA's activities have generated intense public interest and criticism by historians, journalists, and civil libertarians. See, for, example: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/national-archives-exhibit-blurs-images-critical-of-president-trump/2020/01/17/71d8e80c-37e3-11ea-9541-9107303481a4_story.html) When the government tries to hide speech based on its content, that is unquestionably a matter of important public concern. Therefore, the information released in response to this request is reasonably likely be meaningful.

This request also seeks records related not only to this photograph, but to other instances where NARA may have altered or contemplated altering records due to concerns about politics or propriety. Therefore, this request is reasonably likely to reveal meaningful information about federal government activities that is not already known.

(3) Will disclosure to you advance the understanding of the general public on the issue?

Yes. I am making this request through MuckRock.com. MuckRock is a non-profit, collaborative news site that brings together journalists, researchers, activists, and regular citizens to request, analyze, and share government documents, making politics more transparent and democracies more informed. The site provides a repository of hundreds of thousands of pages of original government materials, information on how to file requests, and tools to make the requesting process easier. In addition, MuckRock staff and outside contributors are using these primary source documents received through the site to create original investigative reporting and analysis.

MuckRock's unique form of investigative and accountability journalism has been recognized by the Sunlight Foundation, The Freedom of the Press Foundation, and hundreds of local and national news outlets for its groundbreaking work in areas such as government spending, surveillance, and public safety. You can read our editorial independence policy here. Government materials on MuckRock are available online to the general public free of charge.

(4) Do you have expertise in or a thorough understanding of these records?

While I am not a press-freedom expert, I shouldn't have to be in order to get a fee waiver. I am a practicing attorney and have a thorough understanding that when the government hides messages from the public, particularly messages displayed by citizens at a march or rally, that raises human-rights concerns. Moreover, because I am making this request through MuckRock.com, all documents that NARA releases will be available for dedicated subject-matter experts to access online for free, forever.

(5) Will you be able to disseminate this information to a broad spectrum of the public?

Yes. See my response to factors (3) and (4) above.

(6) Will disclosure lead to a significantly greater understanding of the Government by the public?

Yes. See my response to factors (1), (2), (3), (4), and (5) above.

For all these reasons, my request is in the public interest.

Regarding the factor at 36 C.F.R. §1250.60(b): I have no commercial interest in this request. I will make all responsive records available to the general public online for free. Thus, the public interest overwhelmingly outweighs my (nonexistent) commercial interest

Therefore, I respectfully request that NARA grant my request for a fee waiver. If you do decide to charge me fees, please inform me before processing my request whether the estimated fees will exceed $25.

FORM OF PRODUCTION

I would prefer that this request be filled electronically, by e-mail attachment if available or CD-ROM if not.

CONCLUSION

Thank you very much, and I look forward to receiving your response to this request within 20 business days.

Most sincerely,

Nicholas Marritz

  • National20Archives20exhibit20blurs20images20critical20of20President20Trump20-20The20W.pdf

From: National Archives and Records Administration

This message is to confirm your request submission to the FOIAonline application: View Request. Request information is as follows: (https://www.foiaonline.gov/foiaonline/action/public/submissionDetails?trackingNumber=NARA-NGC-2020-000247&type=request)

* Tracking Number: NARA-NGC-2020-000247
* Requester Name: Nicholas Marritz
* Date Submitted: 01/20/2020
* Request Status: Submitted
* Description:
Please See attachment for description

From: National Archives and Records Administration

Dear Mr. Marritz:

Thank you for submitting your Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request
dated January 19, 2020 to the National Archives and Records Administration
via *FOIAonline*. Your request concerns records about the 2017 Women’s
March photograph displayed outside the exhibit *Rightfully Hers: American
Women and the Vote* at the National Archives Museum. We received your
request on January 21, 2020, and have assigned it an internal tracking
number *NGC20-167* in addition to your *FOIAonline *tracking number
*NARA-NGC-2020-000247*. Please cite both tracking numbers in any future
correspondence about your request.

We are expediting your request, and will respond as soon as possible.
Because we have received numerous FOIA requests for these records, we will
post the responsive records on our website. Accordingly, there will be no
fee for your request.

If you have any questions about the status of your request, you may contact
us at *foia@nara.gov* <foia@nara.gov>.

Sincerely,

Office of General Counsel
National Archives and Records Administration

From: National Archives and Records Administration

*RE: Rightfully Hers: American women and the Vote, Exhibition *

Dear Mr. Nicholas Marritz:

Attached is our response to your FOIA request, assigned *FOIAonline* case
number NARA-NGC-2020-000247, and internal tracking number NGC20-167.

Thank you,

Wanda Williams
Deputy Freedom of Information Act Officer/Archivist
National Archives and Records Administration
Office of General Counsel
College Park, Maryland
301-837-0773
wanda.williams@nara.gov

From: National Archives and Records Administration

Your request for Fee Waiver for the FOIA request NARA-NGC-2020-000247 has been
determined to be not applicable as the request is not billable.

* Fee Waiver Original Justification:
Under 36 C.F.R. § 1250.58, I respectfully request that the Agency waive all fees associated with this request because (1) the request is in the public interest (i.e., information likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations and activities of the government); and (2) the request is not primarily in my commercial interest.
Regarding the factor at 36 C.F.R. §1250.60(b): I have no commercial interest in this request. I will make all responsive records available to the general public online for free. Thus, the public interest overwhelmingly outweighs my (nonexistent) commercial interest

Therefore, I respectfully request that NARA grant my request for a fee waiver. If you do decide to charge me fees, please inform me before processing my request whether the estimated fees will exceed $25.
* Fee Waiver Disposition Reason:
N/A

From: National Archives and Records Administration

NARA-NGC-2020-000247 has been processed with the following final disposition: Partial Grant/Partial Denial.

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  • National20Archives20exhibit20blurs20images20critical20of20President20Trump20-20The20W.pdf

  • NGC20-167 2017 Women's March Photo final 2.19.2020

  • Final Disposition Notice 2020-02-19 185343 Letter