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Nixon Tapes to Lose Personal Conversations

November 29, 1998| From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — For two decades, President Nixon's White House tapes have been preserved and protected in a cold storage vault at the National Archives. Now, technicians are slicing them up with a razor blade.

Not that they want to. A judge ordered the archives to cut out personal, private and some political conversations from the 3,280 hours of conversations the public still hasn't heard.

Nixon discusses his daughter Tricia's Rose Garden wedding. Snip. Nixon plans a political campaign trip. Snip. Family members talk about their health, or one another. Snip. Snip.

All together, 820 hours of tape is being cut--about a fourth of the total volume.

"After all these years of protecting the tapes, it was really a traumatic moment to actually begin cutting them," said Sharon Fawcett, deputy assistant archivist for presidential libraries.

It's delicate, tedious work that will cost $600,000 and take at least six years.

There are no transcripts, only conversation logs cued with the first and last words of talk to edit out. A stopwatch and calculator are used to fast forward the tape on reel-to-reel recorders like those used in the Nixon White House in the early 1970s.

The tape experts mark the beginning and end of each edit with a special archival pen. Then they slide the tape off the machine, thread it into a splicing block and cut it with a razor blade.

Nixon secretly tape-recorded conversations for 2 1/2 years.

The government seized all the tapes when Nixon resigned in 1974.

In all, there are 3,700 hours of conversation.

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