Forty-two years after the 37th president resigned in disgrace, and 22 years after he died, there really is a “new Nixon” at last—a new Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, that is, with radically reimagined interactive exhibits telling the story of his life and presidency in the first comprehensive overhaul since it opened in 1990.
What’s more, library officials say the new exhibits will move beyond the blatant hagiography that characterized the old Nixon library (and that infuses most presidential libraries to one degree or another) to tell history whole. That means a forthright look at Watergate, the bombing of Cambodia and other negative aspects of the Nixon legacy, amounting to an important victory for professional historians who have long battled the band of Nixon loyalists who built the library as a private institution.
Based on a sneak preview tour that museum officials recently conducted for POLITICO Magazine, the early signs are encouraging. “I don’t think anyone can argue that it’s a shrine,” Ken Khachigian, a former aide to Nixon and Ronald Reagan and a longtime former Nixon Foundation board member, told me.