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'Nixon in China' on Exhibit at Library

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April 27, 2006 | by Wendy Leopold

EVANSTON, Ill. --- While President Nixon's 1972 trip to China has had lasting effects on U.S. foreign policy and diplomatic history, his visit appeared less significant to American citizens polled a day after the historic trip ended. The results of that Gallup Poll along with photographs from the Nixon Library, media coverage of the event, and government and declassified materials are featured in an exhibit called “Nixon in China” at Northwestern University Library running through June 1.

The free, public exhibit on the first floor of the Main Library, 1970 Campus Drive, on the Evanston campus can be viewed during regular library hours. It is one of many events around Chicago designed to provide context for next month's Chicago debut of “Nixon in China” at the Chicago Opera Theater. The Pulitzer Prize-winning composer of that opera, John Adams, is the inaugural winner of Northwestern School of Music's Nemmers Prize in Musical Composition and composer-in-residence at the School of Music.

The Chicago Opera Theater assisted librarian and exhibit curator Beth Clausen in obtaining photographs from the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda, Calif. Among images from that library are photos of the historic handshake of Premier Zhou En-lai and President Nixon; Nixon and First Lady Pat Nixon at the Great Wall; and Mrs. Nixon grinning at a giant panda at the Beijing Zoo.

Among the University Library materials on display is a declassified memo written by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to Nixon in which he urges that Nixon stress “there were no secret deals or agreements made” during the trip and that Nixon avoid raising concern  “that the Soviet Union was discussed in anything but the most general terms.”

Photos spreads, articles and magazines covers about the Nixon trip highlight the visit's geopolitical importance and illustrate how China was then perceived. A U.S. News & World Report magazine cover, for example, pondered what a new relationship with “Red China” might mean for Americans.

Curator Clausen combined photographs, examples of media coverage, declassified government materials and Congressional hearing reports with other Northwestern-owned materials to showcase the resources University Library offers scholars and students.

Northwestern University Library and the Chicago Opera Theater are co-sponsors of the “Nixon in China” exhibit at Northwestern. The Chicago Opera Theater will stage the opera “Nixon in China” in performances taking place between May 17 and May 27.

Regular library hours are 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, and 8:30 a.m. to noon Saturdays but are subject to change. For an up-to-date schedule, call (847) 491-7635. For exhibit information, call (847) 467-5918 or e-mail p-strait@northwestern.edu or visit www.library.northwestern.edu/.