U.S. Archivist David Ferriero’s remarks at the Watergate exhibit press preview on March 31:
Good morning, everyone.
It’s a pleasure to welcome you all here to the Richard Nixon Library to view the new Watergate Gallery.
A test of a nation’s commitment to transparency and self-government comes in how it explains to succeeding generations the more difficult or controversial moments of its past. I am very proud of how the National Archives, in general, and the Nixon Library, in particular, has met that challenge in creating a Watergate Gallery in Yorba Linda.
History—however far away it may seem to some—is often personal. I am grateful to the Richard Nixon Foundation, which consulted with us, for its seriousness of purpose and professionalism in what I know was a difficult endeavor.
I am grateful to the National Archives professionals in Washington, especially Sharon Fawcett and the Watergate review panel, and to the team at the library, who contributed to this work. And I would like to thank Library Director Tim Naftali, a distinguished historian in his own right, who led this effort and whose research and vision shaped this gallery.
In July 2007, the Nixon Library became part of the Federal Presidential library system and the Nixon Foundation joined our circle of foundation partners who have built and supported the 13 libraries. The library arguably holds the fullest record of any Presidential administration in history. Visitors to this beautiful site also have the privilege of witnessing the full circle of President Nixon’s life: from the house where he was born in 1913 to his and Mrs. Nixon’s final resting place.
In February we moved the last of Richard Nixon’s Presidential records from College Park, Maryland, to this library to join the records of President Nixon’s early years and his role as a senior statesman. The Nixon collection is now whole and under the supervision of an excellent staff of federal archivists. Over the past four years, this staff, here and in College Park, has released nearly a million pages of documents and hundreds of hours of White House tapes, a testament to the commitment of National Archives professionals everywhere to open and accessible records.
Though the Watergate scandal may have ended Nixon’s Presidency, other galleries in this library show the significant changes he made in the nation’s social, political, and economic structure along with historic breakthroughs in foreign affairs—with the Chinese and the Soviets and in the Mideast. Over the next few years, we plan to update many of these galleries to reflect changes in museum technology and the release of new information. Planning has already started on a future gallery that will explore in detail his role as a senior statesman and adviser to Presidents in the dramatic years at the end of the Cold War.
I will now turn you over to Tim Naftali, Director of the Nixon Library and curator of this new exhibit. Tim joined the National Archives in 2006, and before that he taught history at several universities, including the University of Virginia, where he also served as director of the Presidential Recordings Program at the Miller Center of Public Affairs. He was also a consultant to the Nazi War Crimes and Japanese Imperial Government Records Interagency Working Group at the National Archives and is a prolific writer for both popular and scholarly audiences.