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Hail to the Library

If I could figure out how to set my VCR–yes, I still have one–I would set it for Friday nights at 8 to archive C-SPAN’s new series Presidential Libraries: History Uncovered for my own library.

The cable public affairs network’s latest foray into political history is a 12-part series on the modern presidency, from Herbert Hoover to Bill Clinton. That’s not to suggest the current president isn’t modern, only that he doesn’t yet have his own library (wisecracks suggest themselves but will go uncracked).

Anyway, the series will be culled from rarely-if-ever-seen or heard home movies, audio, documents, photos and artifacts, just the sort of stuff that would make somebody want to record C-SPAN prime time programming.

When C-SPAN, in announcing the new series, talked of delving into the library’s vaults to uncover their historical treasures, I suddenly had the mental picture of Geraldo Rivera blowing open a safe to find Herbert Hoover’s fly-fishing rod or a home movie of Harry Truman in a grass skirt. By the way, if he had beaten Truman, would a certain New York Governor have catalogued his papers according to the Thomas E. Dewey decimal system?

The announcement of the show and the presidential artifacts also made me think of  a painful story out of my wife’s Capitol Hill past, where she once worked as an engineer for the Architect of the Capitol. 

Seems some workmen got hold of one of Roosevelt’s wicker wheelchairs that had been stored there for his periodic visits, then proceeded to essentially destroy it by racing it around the place before the preservationist’s could get to it.

"Sigh," as Snoopy would say.