tv Comparing Approaches to Historical Narrative CSPAN November 26, 2016 10:20am-11:46am EST
>> coming up next, journalist and author cokie roberts mod rates a discussion entitled doing history. comparing approaches to the the narrative. a novel of the reagan years. historical documentary producer grace gugenheimmer whose credits include the johnstown flood. nd author and historicle researcher michael hill. the u.s. capital historical society hosted this event as part of the electric temperature it's about an hour and 20 minutes. >> welcome for your 25th leak tur. if any of you know senator blunt you know he's a high
school history teacher and i will try and probably feebley fail to do him justice in describing this beautiful room you've chosen for your 25th lecture. you have chosen a remarkably historic room. but first, i have to thank the offices of the senate cure rater and historian who prepare histories of our art and rooms. without them this introduction simply wouldn't be possible. so to begin. in the early 1900s the house and the senate decided they had outgrown their space. they commissioned two architects from new york. to build them a house and senate office buildings. those have now become the cannon house office building and the russell senate office building. interestingly, if you know they're sort of mirror images from above.
but those two individuals were educated in paris and a part of that education brought this beautiful art that you see around this room. they took great care to design this room. in fact, they spent over a year finding this black vained marble that came from new jersey. which is very interesting. this was originally known as just simply the caucus room. it was intended to be a room for political parties to meet and caucus and determine their leadership and priorities for their parties. but over time it became a very popular and preferred place for congressional investigative hearings. among them being the 1912 hearing on the sinking of the titanic, the crime hearings.
nd the watergate hearings of 1973. now, i'm a rules committee staffer so i find the following interesting facts far more interesting than that because there are no circumstances under which we would allow these things to happen in the united states senate today. that is that nine united states senators announced their candidacy for the presidency and that includes john f. kennedy, robert f. kennedy, george mcgovern and hubert humphrey. those activities would not be permitted here today. then the second thing i find quite interesting about this room -- and i have seen this movie -- the 1961 film advise and consent was filmed in this room. it has to be a d.c. cult classic because it's actually to my knowledge one of the only commercial films ever filmed here in the capitol and the rest of the russell senate office buildings. if you haven't seen it, you should. it's very interesting.
today the caucus room is not used much as a committee hearing room. it's available should they want to use it but they choose not to by and large because we have larger and more technologically advanced rooms so what we use this room for today is primarily legislative seminars and educational seminars like this one. so we are very happy that you've chosen this room for this lecture. now it is my honor to introduce mr. don carlson, a member of the executive committee. thank you. [applause] >> thank you, stacy. and good evening to everyone who has joined us tonight. i am don carlson, a new member of the executive committee of the u.s. capital historical society board. we were founded in 1962 and chartered by congress in 1978. we are a private nonpartisan
nonprofit educational organization that communicates to the public the rich heritage of the capitol and congress. i am pleased to welcome you to our 2016 national heritage lecture program. we are honored to work with the white house historical association and the supreme court historical society to enhance the knowledge and appreciation of the american system of government and the principles upon which it was founded. tonight's topic doing history comparing approaches to the historians craft is a very unique look at the historian's craft. i want to thank my fellow board member cokie roberts and the other distinguished panelists for sharing their personal insights and to the work of telling american history. these are highly accomplished people have received numerous prestigious awards including an academy award, an emmy, the edward r. murrow award and the
critic's circle award. we have a distinguished audience as well tonight guests representing members of congress, the architect of the capitol the senate historians office, universities, journalists, museums, think tanks and others. i'm sure that the round of questions we will have will be engageling. we are very pleased to welcome several speakers to share in the program tonight. first we are honored that dr. sandberg director of the david ruben stine center and senior vice president of educational resources is here to add some words of welcome on behalf of the historical society. [applause] >> good evening and welcome to everyone. i'm very grateful to don because i have this very long title and now i don't have to
say it. t i'm delighted that our association is a longstanding friendship along with the historical society and the united states supreme court historical society that we're reunited together. i was thinking, on a person note i began just a year ago directing the ruben stine center. it was jist at the time of the last lecture and the last -- heritage lecture. for me i think this is going to become something like hallly's comment. it's noteable er year it will come back. as don said it's the 25th and very near and dear to our heart. this topic of doing history and considering the craft. history never goes away. i think all of us are all kindred spirits and there is the cyclical quality to history. it is important to know these things. it's important to be able to tell stories to contextualize
them. so tonight's panel, this is extremely important at all times and this time. last year again the lecture was calvin coolage in our carriage house and the decater house courtyards. so after the supreme court has it next year we look forward to having it back. what an amazing place. the titanic. thanks. >> the association was a private nonprofit educational organization. we have a terrific mission which is to enhance the understanding and appreciation of the executive mansion. it's a lovely history. we were founded in 1961 by first lady jack lynn kennedy. she was 31 or 32 years old. the goal then and today was to help the white house collect and exhibit the best artifacts of american history and culture. and this grew and grew and continues to, to include
acquisition, preservation, research, education. we have a very robust education program. and some of you will know our publicication arm with the white house historical journal and books and on and on. and not to forget the white house ornament. christmas is coming up. so wrapping up on behalf of the association i'm also here with a number of my colleagues including dr. edward lingle who has just begun as our chief historian a couple of days ago. we're delighted to be here. it's a marvelous partnership. thank you. [applause] >> thank you. i am honored to introduce dr. david pryde, executive director of the united states supreme court historical society, and we are so pleased you could join us. [applause]
dr. pryde: thank you for being here. the national heritage lecture was instituted in 1991 as a consequence of meeting between staff members of the historical groups serving the three branches of government. i was privileged to be at that meeting, the agenda of which was to ascertain how three organizations of similar mission could work together. we settled upon a rotating lecture series. each of the participants would take turns every third year as a principal sponsor for the program that would appeal to the members and friends of the other collaborators. the first of these was a lecture at the supreme court by justice anthony m kennedy on fdr's 1937. my apologies, of course, to the unrepentant new dealers.
who referred to that as the court enlargement plan. [laughter] justice kennedy did a masterful job that evening weaving together the historical threads of three branches involvement in that legislative process. that has been a hallmark of many of the national heritage lectures ever since. some have focused on the expertise of the primary host in any given year. offering the cosponsors insight into the history. each approach, i think, has been well received and hence the continuation of this important series. the board of trustees has asked me to convey its gratitude to tonight's principal sponsor, the u.s. capitol historical society
, for putting together this latest installment in what has been a venerable tradition. similarly, i want to convey our thanks to the white house historical association for its outstanding program on calvin coolidge which took place faster at the decatur house. the supreme court historical society is honored to partner with each of you and looks forward to many more years of cooperative programming and hosting again next year. thank you. [applause] >> thank you, david. it is my extreme honor to introduce my fellow member of the board of the capitol historical society, cokie roberts, who constantly amazes me about her long service on the board and her inability to say no to any request we make of her. [applause] [laughter] she is a political commentator
for abc news and npr, with many years in broadcasting. won countless awards. long ago, i was taught the greatest introduction in washington was a short one. i intend to honor her by doing that tonight. here is cokie roberts. [applause] ms. roberts: thank you for being here. i anticipate this to be an interesting evening. i was thinking when we had that history of the room, when some of us were young, there was only one senate office building when we were kids. it was this building. there were two house office buildings. the senate office building had towels that said "s.o.b." [laughter]
i do feel one other thing in terms of our introduction. the capitol historical society also has christmas ornaments. so. you sure don't miss those. i have spent an inordinate amount of time in my life in this room, not only because it has these big events, like presidential announcements. i was here for ted kennedy and al gore. but also all of these hearings, including the endless iran contra hearings. i can tell you every greek key on this ceiling because really, they went on. i do complain -- today, i am complaining a lot because i did not get any sleep watching that edifying debate last night.
[laughter] the truth is, many of us have had the great privilege -- i have had the credentials where they give you a pass to make it easier -- of being eyewitnesses to history. wehave lived long enough, have been in this city, connected to these institutions where we have had a huge privilege. and that is one approach to history, is to live it and to record it as you go. it is always the saying about journalism, the first draft of history. it has been an exhausting privilege to be able to write that first draft. it is also true the other drafts that are more thoughtful, the
drafts that have some perspective, are very, very not only interesting, but important and useful and we do have three approaches and i am going to stick with the idea of short introductions. you do have some biographical information in your programs and also misses google will be able to help you with anything you need to know. starting on the end, we have michael hill, who toiled in this venue working in government and politics, including as a press secretary of walter mondale when he was vice president. and then had the serendipity of meeting david mccullough and started this wonderful ride.
of working with david and ken burns and john meacham and evan thomas and lots of other people, writing books and movies and traveling the world, learning all kinds of wonderful things and he has also written and edited the diary of washburn, the united states minister to france, 1870-1871, which fascinated me because that is when of my approaches to books like to read that, we have had taken the diary and annotated it, which makes it easier for me to do work. [laughter] thank you. that is one way of writing and reading and producing history. grace guggenheim has taken another path where she has produced so many wonderful historical documentaries,
including the academy award-winning johnstown flood. they go on and on and on, theaters, tv museums, -- tv, museums where they live forever, from presidential libraries. she has been the creator of so much visual information that we can absorb and have access to our history in a way that would not be true if she had not been doing the work she has been doing these many years. her most recent work is "sharon's story" where it is a treatment designed to cure cancer where she was the producer, director, and narrator. the full job, and she is the president of the guggenheim productions, where she has been overseeing the preservation of
her father's film legacy. i must say that her father's house on nantucket -- martha's vineyard, my mother and lady bird would hang out there. honest to god, i was dying to be a fly on the wall. the best i ever got was to deliver my mother there and then i had to leave. and they always made me leave and it was not fair. did you get to stay? sometimes. you got to stay. they probably did not talk as much with us there. tom mallon does these wonderful models, these nonfiction histories that the rest of us do, but also creates historical fiction. another way of making history more accessible.
and having people actually read it in ways the rest of us don't. his 2013 novel "watergate" was a finalist for the faulkner award and he has won many other awards. he also had a guggenheim fellowship, so you can turn to grace and say thank you. [laughter] in addition to his wonderful fiction, and i am told i must read "finale" as soon as this dreadful election is over. he has also written two books of nonfiction that interest me. "a book of one's own" -- part of -- and then 25 years later, ."ours ever i
part of the reason that interests me is because that is how i do my history book. i need the diaries and letters in order to write the history. i am very eager to have other people help me find the letters and the diaries. i also loved the fact they were published by ticknor and field .when john fremont ran for work of theish the women i write about in the 19th century and that was something to do. nobody did that, but they published fremont, an incredible person. when john fremont ran for president at the first republican candidate for president in 1856, nobody knew who the vice presidential candidate was because all of the posters were fremont and jesse. jesse," and she was
the most famous women in america, period, but also the most famous and politics for a very long time, and incredibly powerful. when he won the nomination in philadelphia, and at that point, the candidates did not go to the convention, all of new york showed up at their house and said, show us jesse. when she fell on hard times, she started writing. ticknor and field came through with publishing for her. they also published grace greenwood. known to abraham lincoln as grace greenwood the patriot. her name was sarah jane, the first woman to write for "the new york times" in the 1850's. and she wrote from europe.
and she wrote such things as her admission to the house of lords where she went to hear queen victoria speak and she said the queen displayed more rosy plumptitude than regal attitude. and then she went to dinner at charles dickens' house. she said he had a simple and elegant lifestyle, and she knew this because her servants were no livery. i wonder how her american readers reacted to that, servants wearing livery was pouring in this republic, but i know what she wrote because i read it in "the new york times." one of the wonderful things about writing history right now is you can read the newspapers online and be able to be in the moment where the people you are
writing about were so you are reading what they were reading. it is fabulous because it is not just the stories, but all the ads, so you have a sense of society in a much broader sense because you know what they were buying and what it cost and what children's books people were reading and magazines and all of that. it is a fascinating way to come back around to that first draft of history helping you with the later draft of history. i must say you can waste days sitting and reading the newspapers. it is way too much fun. thinking about the way i approach history and writing my history books, which is women's history, which is harder because
it is protective work to some degree because the records are not anywhere in your the same. it fascinated me to think about the different approaches. i really think -- tom, i will start with you since i ended with you. talk about why when you have done all of these, you have done 16 books now, you have done so many fiction and nonfiction books, why fiction? turn it on. mr. mallon: i came to fiction from nonfiction. ms. roberts: bring it closer. mr. mallon: i had written much more nonfiction before i started writing novels.
and i realizedes they were source material for so many of the stories i wanted to tell. most -- almost all of the fiction i have written has been historical. sometimes in the fairly distant past, more frequently of late in the recent past. isple sometimes ask me what the justification for historical fiction? i often worry when people come up and say, i learned so much history from your books. miss roberts: we do not know what part is true. mr. mallon: at the end of the books, i cannot remember if i made something up or in my file. ms. roberts: for journalists, that is a problem. [laughter] mr. mallon: it is a way into these subjects. historians do their work responsibly and well and very vividly.
nonetheless, there is a restraint on them, a certain bridle on them that is not on the novelist. the example i have used in the past is somebody said, nancy reagan, for instance, how do you know that nancy reagan thought that at that moment? of course i don't. i don't have to substantiate knowing it. even if the historian has some evidence that -- to say she may have thought that, it has to be wrapped up in so many subjunctives. it is not unreasonable to think at this moment, she might have thought this and the novelist has her go ahead and think it. it is a form of malpractice, historical fiction, but the hope is that it will somehow illuminate history in a different way.
ms. roberts: grace, in moving it from the page to the picture, do you feel any of that happens? does it stay straight on? is there some element of fiction? it needs to be quite closer. ms. guggenheim: very interesting question because i struggle with it. first, i want to preface that with documentaries, they can come with different shapes and sizes, or in the film feature or political commercial. it is still a story but the vision can change of that storyline based on the director or the interpreter or the producer. i will go backwards -- you mentioned my first film as an associate producer. i spent 18 years of my career working with my father.
he had a 50 year career with all tops of -- types of genres of film from feature, political, of time ihe period came to work with them, .rimarily historical document "the johnstown flood," we had a beautiful book written by david mccullough which was the premise of our historical fact. the challenge is, what survives? in this case, no witnesses survived, so that was a difficult challenge for a flood that took place in 1889. there were not diaries for us except -- and the material did not survive either. anything after the flood existed but very little before. then what happens? this is one of the few docudramas i have worked on and
how do you show a dam breaking? in that film specifically, there were licenses taken, but we also have a disclaimer saying this is interpretive. it allows us to get away with it and allows us to use reenactment. the initial approach is to try and find what historically exists that we can use. that is where we begin. it is a process of elimination of we need to talk about something visually over something visually. ms. roberts: how do you feel about reenactment? ms. guggenheim: when i look back at the johnstown flood, it looks a little questionable. [laughter] today, technology is so much more sophisticated. we were dealing with
technological challenges. where video and film are just starting to blend together. i think it can work successfully but it can also be misleading. ms. roberts: in the videos in museums, they tend to have a lot of reenactment. i think they have gotten better. do you think they have gotten better? ms. guggenheim: technologically, i think it has become seamless. just as an example, there was a film about rosa parks nominated award, produced by one of our clients, and they were criticized for doing reenactments but did not do a disclaimer, so people could not tell the difference. that is why typically in pbs films, anything that is reenacted is in color, versus historical is in black and white. we do not do that as much because we like to melt it and have a disclaimer.
this roberts: so the transparent -- s: so it becomes transparent. ms. guggenheim it has become : experiential experience rather than factual. ms. roberts: michael, you have worked with both film and with books, do you find yourself -- you have the best job. [laughter] do you find yourself approaching the research in different ways? mr. hill: i think it is great to talk about all the different forms of producing history because i remember when i was in school, i was interested in history despite the best efforts of every teacher i had.
whether it is a straight nonfiction book, documentary, or historical novel, whatever gets people interested and excited about history is fabulous. i was thinking when tom was speaking, the story i heard years ago when i was helping evan thomas with a book and evan was starting the research and he asked somebody, what is the best material to read? that one of the best accounts is herman wilkes and no one remembers his historical novel and the reason is you get the work and research, which is what tom does. i think in looking at all the different media, there are similar approaches and attacks
in producing a book as it is for a documentary as it is for an historical novel. obviously, diaries and letters are crucial and newspapers are just a fabulous source of material and the access you have to those now is wonderful. the other, which i think, and this i have to thank you folks here, the historians and curators, like jeff landry, you make our work possible through the archival work that you do. you produce the material that lets us do what we do. in addition to diaries and letters and newspapers and so forth, i know david mccullough uses artwork a lot. if you look at a painting of
john adams or thomas jefferson that was done, a lot of times these paintings were done by artists who were sitting with the subject or knew them. from there, you can get descriptions of what the person looks like, what their dress was like. i remember when tom hanks and hbo did an adaptation of the john adams film and the set design people were trying to figure out what john adams and abigail looked like at various points in the career. they went back and looked at the paintings. so they would know how they dressed at certain particular times. artwork is another example. the other, and tom and i were talking a little bit about this and grace knows this because of the visual aspect, is to go to the place where the historical event happened. i cannot stress how important
that is. all of the authors i have worked for, if there is a place that is still in existence of the subject matter you are dealing with, you have to go see it because even if you pick up one little thing, it was worth doing that. countless instances i have had, david mccullough with the wright brothers book, the john adams houses, being in this room. going there is such an important thing. quickly, i heard a wonderful story a couple of weeks ago. and --n marietta, ohio, with david -- and i was talking
to one of the historians and he told us a wonderful story that when gore vidal was working on his burr historical novel, there was a story that there was a local wealthy person out there who put up a lot of the money to help with the conspiracy and help build the boats and so forth. the mansion is still there and a lot of the furniture is still there. this story is when gore vidal went to the museum and he said to the curator, i wonder if i could ask you a favor. could you take two pieces of furniture in which we know aaron burr either sat in or touched, could you put them in a room and i could go in there and sit by myself and take it in? he said, sure. he pulled them out of the case
room, put some a candles on, closed the door and gore vidal sat in there and it is a wonderful example -- anything that stimulates the author by feeling the real thing, seeing the real thing, is so important. all of what we do is basically to try and tell great stories. the archival work and the places and the artwork and so forth helps so much. ms. roberts: you can learn a lot about what they were wearing by reading the women's letters. they actually talk about it. [laughter] those pictures you talk about leave out half of the human race. i find one of the great things and you do find the letters is that they are so much better than the men's letters because the men knew that they were important and they wrote with
the idea that they would be published and preserved and their letters are edited and pompous. the women just wrote letters. they learned about politics, they -- cash currently, totally, they were deeply political, but they also wrote about fashion and who was having babies and he was losing them, and what the economic situation was and about human beings and they were frank and funny. jefferson davis's wife writes a wonderful letter to her mother. just curious and she says, it is a good thing there is a new water system coming to washington so that staring at the factories, you might wash more often. you do not learn from the men's letters that douglas stinks.
[laughter] that is part of the reason people do not know history as well because half of the human race feels like they are left out of it. grace, you were quoted in the "washington times" saying the state of historical ignorance makes you gritty about your craft. what does that mean? miss guggenheim: an interesting interpretation, isn't it? i have always felt when i have been lucky enough to be on an historical documentary, we only have so much time. we are expected to know are subject deeply and also to find the material but it takes time. in the spectrum of a year and a half or a year or two years, a majority of that time, you want to plan and hunt and gather. if you cannot find your material
and be persuasive and gritty, you cannot tell your story. i feel that is the hardship of the challenge. just flash memory comes to mind when i worked on a film about harry truman for the truman library and there was literally no material i could find when he was senator and at the last minute, because of relationship with one of the missouri historical societies, they notified us to say, we just inherited some home movies from a contractor who built the building. that is the kind of thing -- if you are thirsty enough, whether it is a family, or a historical society. my perspective is, my career has been built on the preservation of this material. gritty, not everyone is able to
have it easily accessible. you really have to find it. ms. roberts: tom, does it make it any easier in terms of trying to get to this stuff to have the moments where you can just make it up? [laughter] mr. mallon: it is a great comfort not to have to go through the "new yorker" fact checking department as one does for an essay. it is very funny with source material, you can reach a point in fiction, you reach it more quickly than in nonfiction. maybe you should not reach it in nonfiction at all, but you do reach a point where you almost wish you had less to work with. watergate, there were the tapes
of the hearings, the nixon tapes, which were one-of-a-kind, completely in valuable, they were all of these memoirs that even the minor players wrote in order to pay their legal bills. there was a tremendous amount of stuff and i sometimes felt i was drowning in it and wanted to have less. with other stories, a much earlier novel of mine, was about the couple in the balcony with the lincolns. and the dreadful things that happened to them in later years. rossum, who was with claire harris, his bn say -- ms. roberts: after everybody else said no. mr. mallon: this is very suspicious to the grassy knoll types. [laughter] the lincoln administration, why did so many people say no, i do not want to be in that box? [laughter]
18 years after the assassination, henry, who was married to clara, and they had three children, one of who m became a congressman, he murdered clara when they were traveling abroad in germany. it was a front-page story in the day, but the materials available to me for that story were pretty scarce. the families destroyed a lot of stuff because of embarrassment. i was grasping at tiny straws. i found a diary up in albany kept by one of the cousins. who says in 1859, they were both albany families before they came down, he says, i enjoyed clara's company at dinner tonight, she was not so sarcastic as usual. [laughter] that was the minute she became real to me. in a way, but one other story about sources. i was always craving more
material for the two of them because i would find a great deal of detail for a period of their lives. ms. roberts: what was it about them that got you going? that they were there in the box? mr. mallon: when i knew he had murdered her. and that there had never been for all the things that had been done about lincoln, 14,000 books stashed up and education center, and there had never been a full-length treatment of henry and clara. ms. roberts: how did you know he had murdered her? mr. mallon: it was documented but it was literally a footnote. this happened 18 years later. there was a time -- and i traced every possible scrap of information. i was telling a gentleman before we started, just last fall, 20 plus years after that book came
out, i got a call from a man across the river in virginia. he said, my late wife and i always thought about getting in touch with you. we both read your book but we never got around to it. i was married to clara's great-great granddaughter and we have four cartons of stuff related to her. [laughter] would you be interested in seeing it? ms. roberts: not now. mr. mallon: i think it shows the two-edged sword. ,here the novelist is concerned that information is -- well, i looked at these boxes and there were things in them, objects that made me shake. clara was a great collector of photographic calling cards. they looked like business cards today.
ms. roberts: some people collected them like baseball cards. mr. mallon: she liked the limelight and there was one card in there which was from dr. charles crane, one of the physicians that attended lincoln in the peterson house the night he died. it was addressed to dr. noris. i did not know who dr. noris was. i did some digging and found the was basil noris, position attending secretary of state seward. who had been stabbed by one of luther's conspirators. it was a report from the 's conspirators. it was a report from the petersen house to seward's house as to what was going on and the card said in pencil, 6:00 a.m., the president is very low. this is one hour and 22 minutes before lincoln dies. i said to the gentleman, is this insured?
[laughter] this is one of the last written records of the lincoln administration. the capacity of information will thrill you, but i looked through clara's voluminous scrapbooks and whatever, which would have provided me with tremendous information in terms of dates and whereabouts, and finally where those things were concerned, i left the house with a certain relief. i thought there was so much information, it would have been inhibiting. it could not have been a novel in the way. i had to have some kind of imaginative room to maneuver. i think it is a bit morbid two-edged sword for novelists. ms. roberts: grace, i see you nodding. ms. guggenheim: it reminded me of the story going back to the johnston plug, when we finished when wetown flood,
finished the half hour of film, there was a woman who called the johnstown flood museum and said, i found this trunk in my mother's adequate the tag on it that said the fishing and hunting club. inside were hundreds of photographs from her great grandfather who had been an amateur photographer and that allowed us to expand the film to an hour, but also for the first time, show material of the wealthy pittsburgh families left that had hidden the material for many years and occupied the club. it was liberating. you read about it and say, does it really exist? when you see it, you know. ms. roberts: that gets to the question of truth. we are spent a lot of time in this campaign, a huge amount of time, and useful amount of time doing fact checking.
now we are doing it in real time. as we are talking, you can pull up what is true and what is not true. not a lot is true. but is there a difference between just checking the facts and telling the truth? are they the same thing? mr. hill: the way i look at it is that a fact is a point of departure and what one needs to do, particularly in the nonfiction context, is take a fact that you are presented with and attack it from every possible way you can. the other day, i was doing a little research about dwight eisenhower and civil rights and i was looking at the chapter in his memoir about civil rights and he mentions at the outset,
a couple of paragraphs, where he talks about some of the advances and he mentioned a fellow named frederick mauro that he appointed to his administration and said he was the first black appointed to a personnel position in a white house administration. i looked at that and thought, that is pretty neat. i did some poking around and found out, yes, he was, but the back story that came out of that was once he was appointed, his treatment inside the administration was horrible. some people would not deal with them. friends of eisenhower's were just appalled. i take that as an example -- that is a fact of what eisenhower did and that is terrific. but then you have to start looking at what are the other stories? part of the story, the other angles of the story, and that is where a lot of this methodology
comes in. checking with oral history, what did somebody else say about this particular event? in oral histories, you have to be a little bit careful, too. oral histories, at a particular time, can have a particular benefit. but what if you do the interview with somebody later on? they may be much more open, much more willing to talk. ms. roberts: after everybody is dead. mr. hill: precisely, and also thinking a little bit about the went to get this out there or off of their tester whatever, so getting and taking the fact and checking it against other things, interviews with people, checking what the newspaper
said, checking what other diaries said, looking at diaries or letters of people who did not like the person you are researching. what did they say? why did they say that? what were their motives? checking things along the way, so taking the fact and testing it along the way and trying to get to some kind of truth. the instances that tom and grace mentioned about the great fear of anybody who does this is working on a project and either at the 11th hour or after you have released your product, finding something that has a huge impact upon the credibility of what you do and one thing i have learned over 30 years ago from david mccullough that views does all the time when he works, is that there are some authors that once they get going, they do not want to have a lot of people know about what they are
doing for whatever reason. david is very open. he wants everybody to know what he is doing because inevitably, something comes out of the woodwork. one of the things david always says to me, go talk to jeff flanery and see what he has. there was a perfect example several years ago, when i was helping evan thomas on his robert kennedy book. i was coming into the manuscript reading room and jeff said, have you looked at the martin papers and the campaign diary he kept of being with bobby kennedy? i said no. and it is anut absolute gold mine. the only really inside the campaign diary that was ever produced and it was wonderful. the way that came about was talking to archivists, making
them part of the partnership to produce that end help produce the best product that you can. it is a long way of saying the facts are there, but you have to push and pull and try to reach the best conclusion that you can. roberts: mid-19th century woman wrote a lot of memoirs and how true are the memoirs? hard to know, my mother said about her own, think about what a great book i would have written if i had been willing to tell the truth. [laughter] there is one woman, virginia clapton, who was married to a confederate senator from then left and was in the confederate administration, and then he was imprisoned with jefferson davis seen as a conspirator. which was not true. they kept him in prison for a while. and she writes this wonderful
, breezy memoir. she was very clever and everybody loved her. the newspaper stories were all about her. her memoir about herself is -- so the 50's," reading what she writes for publication, it is all how well she handled everything and how she came and told andy johnson off, which she did. that is true, but she was terrified and you learn that through her diary. take the diary at exactly the same period from the memoir and see that she was scared to death. he was going to be in jail forever or killed. one garyf course of was to rot or hanged if they were to kill a woman, and you would never have that if you just had the memoir. the terrible thing that happened
to me was davis's diary was discovered after i finished my book, and she was a wonderful writer. hill: on the note about the diaries and memoirs and one thing we have found is particularly with 18th-century memoirs or 19th century memoirs, forth, thatand so it was accepted to leave things out. ms. roberts: you were not expected to embarrass yourself. mr. hill: precisely, and they did not use ellipses. one thing on the washburn diary that we found at the library of congress, washburn later published two volumes he called his diary and correspondence to the minister of france and he quotes from the diary.
we started looking at the diary and comparing it against the original and there were many instances where he -- and it was all personal things, talking about his health. ms. roberts: well, charles francis adams wrote about that and adams left out all the good stuff. grace, you have had the experience about writing about recent things. do you know, movies about recent events, where people are of five, so they can get mad at you. [laughter] how does that differ? ms. guggenheim: it is an interesting question. there are advantages and disadvantages. the biggest -- for a filmmaker, there has to be a lot of trust with a live subject. i am sure you find that, too, with journalism. without that confidence in
relationship, the reveal does not succeed. so you both hope you can cradle that so it can be successful and it feels risky. there is a concept to do but you do not know what the outcome is going to be. ms. roberts: working on andy young, tell us about that. ms. guggenheim: the two films that were mentioned, my father did not work on these two films. there were two films that they relate to the history here. my father produced two films on andrew young when he ran in 1974 for the congressional seat. he was the first african-american to win in post reconstruction. and i wanted to preserve this film, so i was curious about how they made it and why, and i was
trying to obtain the copyright, which was owned by quaker oats, of all things. [laughter] very odd. now quaker oats has been purchased by pepsi, i believe. that was a big question mark in my mind, so through preserving this film, i found out through a living member who had worked on the film with quaker oats that they really wanted to take a position of showing that they were an integrated corporation. so if they created a new factory somewhere in united states, they would have open housing. i think they saw this as an opportunity to do a film -- ms. roberts: promote themselves. ms. guggenheim: exactly. films in 1974 were mostly shown in the kennedy center, they were not shown on pbs, though this one was. the risk with the storyline like that was, you are going to
follow this campaign but not know if it is going to be successful and if it is going to have any history to it. in the end, it did. ms. roberts: tom, bringing things up to the present, you have just written a fictional piece about the election of 2016. tell us -- [laughter] mr. mallon: it is a piece that will be in the "new yorker," that comes up next week, which is special. this roberts: -- roberts: we are getting a preview. mr. mallon: it is called "presumptive." i imagine it beginning on the day that trump became the presumptive nominee of the republican party. i like the word because it has echoes of presumption and consumption, things that politics does to people. [laughter]
it is sort of not too long, but a longish essay about the things that one might do, and it did, in writing it, aside from the fact that it took my mind off the real election, which was not such a bad thing -- my main occupation right now is i'm writing a novel set during the george w. bush years. it seems like such high-minded relief to go back to the iraq insurgency and hurricane katrina, the good old days. [laughter] that is one, i think, function of history, that you escape the current affairs. but there is this question, again. i think there are moral questions that the novelist has to cope with that the historian -- whose task is much more difficult, given the level of
accuracy that has to be there -- does not always have to cope with. your mission is to tell the truth, but in terms of -- you mentioned about the truth and also about recent people. there is the literal truth, and then there is what you might call the poetic truth, the higher truth, the truer truth. that is one of the things that fiction tries to get into. in the novel i wrote about watergate, probably the most trouble i ever got into as a novelist was -- mrs. nixon is a big character in the novel. and i imagine -- i'm trying to think about what nixon called the wilderness years, the years he was out of office after he lost the governorship of california. he was living in new york until he won the presidency five years later. this was by almost all accounts the happiest period in pat nixon's life. she liked the anonymity, she went to museums, bookstores,
elizabeth arden, most people did not recognize her. she got along extremely well with both of her teenage daughters, even though it was the 1960's. this was the life she should have had in a place like pasadena in the 1940's and 1950's, the wife of a prosperous republican lawyer. i tried to imagine what would have completed her happiness. i imagine for a very brief period in those years that she had a very short-lived, tender affair with a retired state's lawyer. [laughter] mr. mallon: who is this silver haired irishman. somebody pointed this out to me and said, what is that about? [laughter] mr. mallon: i didn't want to think too much about that. [laughter] mr. mallon: there was one reviewer who worked in the nixon administration and had lines of dialogue in the novel.
very nice fellow. he wrote an overall quite friendly review of the book in "the wall street journal." he liked the book, but he was very bothered by this. and he said, mrs. nixon has living children and grandchildren. my thought was, is this the worst they have to endure? why did i have to do it? it is such a low-key, gentle thing in the book. but i did it, quite honestly, because when i was writing scenes between the two of them -- they remain in touch in a very distant, civilized way in the years to follow -- when i wrote scenes for the two of them, even though i was aware i was lying about the fact that there was no literal truth to any of this, i had a certainty that i was getting closer to the real mrs. nixon, as she really was. i think there were dimensions of
warmth to her and so forth that were terribly suppressed by the culture. i felt, in a sense, as pompous as it sounds, that i was getting to the truer truth of her by bending the facts, and that was the only way i could do it. ms. roberts: it is time for questions from you guys. i think we have some microphones moving around. who has got microphones? there's one over here. just one microphone? why don't you come toward the middle, then. go ahead. sprint. [laughter] >> is this working? all of you talked about the usefulness of diaries or letters of the subject, but yes or no
question for each of you -- in the absence of diaries and letters, would you entertain the idea of writing or documenting a subject? ms. roberts: this is something that comes up all the time. what will happen in the future with no diaries and no letters? what will our history be? does anybody want to take that? >> well, there is a lot of tweeting going on. [laughter] ms. roberts: that is not crazy. my advice on this is always save everything. the truth is with emails, particularly around big events, marriages, people going off to school, deaths, there is a lot of e-mailing that tells a lot of stories. print them out. even the tweets.
in one book that we wrote about marriage, i wrote a chapter about pioneer marriages. there was a woman, mary richardson, who went to oregon in the early 19th century. she knew she was doing something absolutely extraordinary and got out there, and she wrote letters, which were really a diary. there was one she wrote that said, i was up at 5:00, baked nine loaves of bread, taught school, was delivered of a son. [laughter] ms. roberts: that is a tweet. [laughter] ms. roberts: but you get the picture, big-time. i really do think saving these things makes a big difference. the other thing that i would absolutely tout is story core. you hear it on npr on friday mornings.
they have created something wonderful where people all over the country interview other people, and last thanksgiving, something like 300,000 kids interviewed their grandparents, and it is all archived in the library of congress. the problem is going to be, the technology changes, and being able to listen to things -- grace is nodding, because once the technology changes, it becomes difficult. you have to preserve it with the next generation of whatever it is. anything you can do like that really does make a difference. i highly recommend it. anybody else want to add to that? ms. guggenheim: i think if you find any family letters, you should consciously think about where you can donate them to, or photographs. a story here -- i am here with sort of a st. louis mafia right
here. my mother's first cousin died, who is from st. louis, and she had all these letters. i could not read them, but i sent them to the missouri and they came back breathless because in there were letters from the former mayor of st. louis, ronald well, to his mother, to my mother is related to. without that, they don't learn about the flu in st. louis and things like that. if we can, we should. but it is scary. digital technology for my industry, it is easy. film, them is, with last 100 years. with digital technology, you have to be careful migrating afford. >> the web is preserving and
making it possible. a lot of documentation that one cannot easily get to. it is cheaper to do scholarship today. you don't have to do as much travel. the never underestimate how evocative at what first appears to be dry documents could turn out to be -- in the late 1980's, when i was writing a novel about the early 1960's of the first space flight, and i was a little boy in the novel -- [laughter] the day i was registered to school in the 1950's by my father, i could remember being brought to the office, and i found this document because i was trying to re-create that era trying to understand it differences from the era i was living in. of the form,age
aside from all of these other things you would expect to find like parent's phone numbers and all those things, the person taking information from the parent had to record whether the child came from a broken home, or not. that was the official printed category, a broken home, and whether or not the child was unkempt. >> it sounds like oliver twist, right? up in my catholic town, i did not know anyone who came from a broken home. no one was divorced. it was a much more exotic thing. it seemed to be forward-looking. there was a spot that asked, activities, hobbies, and interests of parents? that seemed modern and touchy-feely to me.
the one-word answer from my father was "none." [laughter] -- myat brought him back father detested dizzy bodies. busy bodies.d they did not have any interests outside of us and them. that was on one page that was literally a government form. card atp's goal report sign ridge -- my catholic , it had report card intercourse with companion? [applause] it[laughter] it was an all girl's school. >> i have another question for tom.
of other writers a fictional oftory, is there a code ethics that you will not go beyond making history fictional? you touched on this a little bit talking about morals. just wondering if you could elaborate? what would be acceptable? changing facts are introducing new characters? what would be unacceptable? of sub genre kind within historical fiction called alternate history fiction, which is a genre fiction. , bignate history novels changes in the south when the civil war happened. the reader of those books knows that is part of the entertainment to see just how many things will have been changed. where standard historical fiction, the reader is looking
for fidelity to the small fax. w to the small facts, and ants the world to be replicated. there are moral questions involved. i did not figure what i had done with richard nixon to be terrible. as i say, and the book for trace her as being very loyal and for trace a much warmer marriage between the next sentence -- between the nixons. the fellow, the reviewer who mrs.the business with nixon made him uncomfortable. to something i wrote before and turned it against me, and said, remember you wrote this. and he was right. the example he cited from the essay which was about to telling
and the limits, i had written a and objected in the essay to something that appeared not to long after, that was a movie e. trade the young thomas dewey is seven been corrupt and in league with the gangsters. ms., i thought, aside from being preposterous, which all history fiction is, but this i thought, dewey neverhomas e. sat with his back to the door of a restaurant. washought that somebody long memories from the 1930's might try to settle a score. wrongght that that was
and foolish. i did not think that added anything to anybody's understanding of history, whereas i'd rather grandiose leaf thought -- where as i thought the writing negative the nixons come closer. >> i have a question for tom. i would like to go off-topic and roberts for winning an award for the genealogical society. >> thank you. tom, i am struck by your comments on the nixon marriage. i remember when pat nixon dicing a photograph of president nixon, crushed. his face was broken. this was a man that had achieved
so much. and he was absolutely broken. pat, and heng of himself with the golf in 12 months. i was wondering in your examination of the nixon's marriage, did you find something about him that was lovable? did you find something about her that was lovable? did you get a sense they loved each other, and that is why she stayed with him through so much? tom: i don't think anyone can understand the nixons unless they realize that when he first met pat, he was wildly in love with her. irish rose.wild, .hey met during a play -- they met doing a play. of was told by the principle
the school she was teaching at that it would be a very good thing if she and another teacher got involved in this community theater. it was actually crazy about her, and she was not interested. and nixon, as always, was working all the angles. and she said, i am dating another guy. fellow youays, this are dating, does he have a car? [laughter] there, ryan, as she was said, nobody does not. and he said, i will draghi on your date. and he did. he drove her and her date around and she was so impressed by the weirdness of this that w it kind by the weirdness of this that it kind of wore her down. and the love letters that nixon wrote to her when they were according and when they were , they were released.
they are very ardent. i think nixon knew he put her through some terrible things that she stuck with him through. i think they were very complicated. very shy people. am anxon once said, i introvert in an extrovert's profession. that was one of the terrible, constant strains he operated under. for this out of time very interesting conversation. i want to thank you. there is a reception so you can talk privately with these fabulous people. i do want to say, one of the things i feel about history is that it makes me feel better. we have lived through some awful times and come out the other side. the jacklooking at
kennedy's announcement, you have to remember, he was young. everybody in the sentence -- everybody in the senate thought it was ridiculous that he was running for president. there were a lot of other people they thought were far more qualified for the presidency. it is a pretty short statement, but the ends this thing saying i have developed an image of america for filling a noble and historic role as a defender of freedom at a time of maximum peril, and that the american people, as confident, courageous, and persevering, that is the image i would like our leaders to be seen today. thank you. [applause] >> thank you for our distinguished panel. i would like to thank them on
behalf of our distinguished societies giving us their unique insight into unique field of history. youok for to seeing all of at our next event at the national heritage lecture hosted by the u.s. supreme court, the historical society. ourou do not receive historical society magazine, please pick up a copy on your way out. when you are ready to leave, these check with our people by the exits. to expedite your getting home tonight, just be sure to check with our people about which exit you can use. beyond that, thank you again for coming, and please stay and andy our dessert reception thank you very much. [applause]
[captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2016] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] >> interested in american history tv? website, c-span.org/history. wrote to the white house, lectures in history and more at c-span.org/history. this weekend on american history candaceersation with shy hooper about lincoln's wives, for women who influence the civil war for better or for worse. here is a preview. miles on the part of julia grant.
she made up for not writing letters by being with him in camp. she must've been a prime target for the confederate. yes, and fact, she came from just hours of being kidnapped by them in december of 1862 in mississippi. she had gotten a telegram from her husband. he was in oxford. the relevant was open and. instead of -- the railroad was open then. she got on the train with her son and her slaves, and they got right up to oxford and the theederates came in under cavalry, and he went to the very house that julia has been staying in and asked for her. may knew she was there. -- they knew she was there. >> watch the entire program from president lincoln's college 7:00 p.m. eastern saturday.
this is american history tv on c-span3. the richard nixon presidential library and museum in california recently completed a major renovation. up next, exhibit and website designers discuss the new museum and how the revised exhibits telling more complete story about president nixon and his administration. the museum now includes a replica of the oval office, a gallery on nixon in china, and an updated interactive display. this is just over 90 minutes. >> ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the new richard nixon presidential library and museum. today's program will be introduced by ronald walker, chairman of the richard nixon foundation, and david, the archivist of the united states. [applause]