The Capitol's Preservationists Might Leave Some of the Damage As a Historical Marker

Leena Kim
·2 min read
Photo credit: Samuel Corum - Getty Images
Photo credit: Samuel Corum - Getty Images

From Town & Country

In an affront to democracy, a mob of Trump supporters broke into the nation's Capitol on Wednesday, occupying the building for several hours and then leaving behind shattered windows and vandalized offices (not to mention all the psychological and emotional damage inflicted on members of Congress, who were in the midst of certifying the election of Joe Biden, and the rest of a stunned nation).

Now, in the wake of this week's events, curators for the Architect of the Capitol, the federal agency responsible for the building's maintenance and preservation, are assessing just how much physical damage was done to this hallowed building and its priceless art.

Photo credit: Caroline Brehman - Getty Images
Photo credit: Caroline Brehman - Getty Images

A 19th-century marble bust of former president Zachary Taylor was smeared with a red liquid resembling blood. A framed photo of the Dalai Lama was stolen, while a scroll featuring Chinese characters was destroyed. Tear gas and pepper spray left residue on murals, statues, and benches. Outside, Frederick Law Olmstead light fixtures were broken and graffiti was found on the building near the inaugural stand, where Biden is set to take his oath of office in less than two weeks.

As these rioters stormed into the dome of the Capitol, waving their Confederate flags and brandishing sticks and bats, it was a miracle that the incredibly valuable pieces of art in the rotunda—the same place where, just a few months ago, the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg became the first woman to lie in state—were left unscathed.

Photo credit: Pool - Getty Images
Photo credit: Pool - Getty Images

Chief among the treasures here is The Declaration of Independence, an 1819 masterpiece by John Trumbull depicting John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin presenting the draft of the declaration to Congress. It's one of four scenes the painter created of the American Revolution, all of which also hang in the rotunda along with four more historical paintings depicting the exploration of America. There is also a statue of George Washington and a bust Martin Luther King, Jr., both of which were untouched. So were the statues of prominent Americans, from Thomas Edison to Rosa Parks, that line the National Statuary Hall.

As for the damage that has been done, preservationists are reportedly considering keeping some of it the way it is as a historical marker for the day. But they will have to walk a fine line between preserving history and glorifying the mob's despicable acts.

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