Monday, May 30, 2011

One Life: Katharine Graham

Where: National Portrait Gallery

When: through May 30, 2011

The National Portrait Gallery has been putting up a series of shows entitled "One Life." They set aside a small room in the museum devoted to pictures and other items about one person. I've seen shows on Elvis Presley and Thomas Paine previously. It's a nice way to learn about a particular individual and their time through artifacts from their life.

Katharine Graham was really a fascinating person; a description of her was "an extraordinary person living in extraordinary times." Very true. I was impressed by the tremendous courage she must have possessed to take over the Post after her husband's suicide. There's some coverage of her early life and marriage, but the bulk of the show concerns her stewardship of the Post in the 1970s.

One of the artifacts they have on display is a copy of the Post front page when they were allowed to publish the Pentagon Papers. There was a photo on that page, below the fold, entitled "Metro in the making." Today's small picture becomes tomorrow's expose series.

Also on display is Graham's Pulitzer Prize, which she won for her biography in 1998 - it's much smaller than I would have guessed.

Lots of Watergate stuff is on display; no surprise there. One gets a sense that she gambled on doing the right thing in exposing the corruption of the Nixon administration, and it paid off. One small beef, they misidentify the Circuit Court of Appeals as the District Court of Appeals in a blurb by a photo of Graham and Bradley.

Verdict: By all means, see this show; if you remember Watergate, it will bring it all back. If you don't, you can get some sense of what the fuss what all about.

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