Capitol Art Damaged?


Amanda Chang, Staff Writer

As many Americans and people around the world could see, the rioters who engaged in insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 damaged much of the historical building while trying to storm it. Once the riot at the Capitol subsided, curators took to combing the Capitol for damage to the art, artifacts, and building itself.

“All of the art in the Capitol is basically on view,” said Dr. Barbara Wolanin to The New York Times, former Curator for the Architect of the Capitol. “There aren’t a lot of things hidden away.”

Much of the art in the Capitol did not go untouched by the mob of pro-Trump supporters. A bust of former President Zachary Taylor from the 19th century was tarnished by what appears to be blood. Other artifacts were also damaged or stolen; a scroll with Chinese characters was ripped and a photo of the Dalai Lama was taken. Metal benches were also broken during the raid.

According to The Washington Post, a spokesperson for the Committee on House Administration reported that seven historically significant pieces were covered in “corrosive gas agent residue.” The artifacts included a statue of Thomas Jefferson, marble busts of House speakers Joseph Gurney Cannon, Joseph W. Martin Jr., Thomas Brackett Reed, and Champ Clark, and portraits of James Madison and John Quincy Adams. 

One of the artifacts looted from the Capitol was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s lectern. Her office was stormed by the rioters, causing damage to the placard above her door and a 19th-century gold mirror. But the artifacts inside the Capitol aren’t the only items considered art—the building is, too. 

“On the West Front, the teams identified graffiti on the building near the Inaugural Stands and two broken Olmsted light fixtures… statues, murals, historic benches and original shutters all suffered varying degrees of damage… all original materials will be used in repairs where possible,” a spokeswoman for the Architect of the Capitol said to The Washington Post.

“It could have been much worse,” Dr. Wolanin said.

The 18-foot paintings in the Rotunda, the statues in the National Statuary Hall, and original paintings of George Washington, among others, were vulnerable to defacement but were left untouched.  

While some historians want to keep some of damage to mark the infamous day, they also noted that “it [is] important to do it in a way that [does] not grant the rioters hero status.”


Photo courtesy of NYTIMES.COM