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Thursday
Mar312011

Richard Nixon Library Gets Watergate Overhaul

David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images(YORBA LINDA, Calif.) -- The Richard Nixon Library has unveiled what it says is a vastly expanded and more balanced Watergate exhibit, one that library director Tim Naftali said will "let the historical chips fall where they may."

"The public deserves non-partisan history for its taxpayer money," Naftali said of the exhibits, run by the National Archives since coming under federal control in 2007. "When you come to the library, you'll see a commitment to honesty and transparency."

The once-privately-owned library came under fire after the Richard Nixon Foundation opened it in 1990 and displayed what some historians denounced as a swayed view of Nixon's presidency. The part of the library on the Watergate scandal had paltry documentation and portrayed mostly Nixon's perspective of the story, including a view of Watergate as a "coup" by Nixon's rivals.

But the new $500,000 makeover unveiled Thursday brings new presidential papers to the forefront and adds oral histories by 131 historical figures, many involved with the Watergate scandal that led to Nixon's resignation on Aug. 8, 1974.

Visitors can see burglar tools allegedly used to break into the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate Hotel complex and a listening device tied to the scandal.

They can hear the editing clicks on audiotape where 18 1/2 minutes of White House recordings possibly pertinent to a Watergate cover-up infamously got erased.

The library now has 40 hours of interactive content on display that Naftali calls "iPad history." Clicking on a display called "dirty tricks," visitors can listen to Nixon ordering Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., investigated.

In short, the new permanent exhibit aims to be historically accurate and not to spin history in Nixon's favor.

Besides the Nixon Library, the National Archives now oversees 12 other presidential libraries.

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