Flags, signs and other items left behind in Capitol riot to be preserved as historical artifacts

Flags, signs and other items left throughout the Capitol by rioters who stormed the building Wednesday will be preserved as historical artifacts in the House and Senate collections and shared with national museums. 

According to The Washington Post, a spokesperson for the House Administration Committee, which oversees the House curator and Architect of the Capitol, artifacts, including pro-insurrection stickers and flags as well as Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) damaged nameplate, are being collected for preservation as part of an archive on Wednesday’s events. 

The spokesperson told the Post that seven pieces of historically significant art, including a marble statue of Thomas Jefferson and portraits of James Madison and John Quincy Adams, were covered in “corrosive gas agent residue” and were being sent to the Smithsonian for assessment and restoration. 

“On the West Front, the teams identified graffiti on the building near the Inaugural Stands and two broken Olmsted light fixtures,” said a spokeswoman for the Architect of the Capitol in an email. “Statues, murals, historic benches and original shutters all suffered varying degrees of damage – primarily from pepper spray accretions and residue from tear gas and fire extinguishers – that will require cleaning and conservation.”

Frank Blazich, a curator from the National Museum of American History, also collected signs and other items left at the scene of the chaos, including a sign that read, “Off with their heads: Stop the steal.”

The Hill has reached out to the Architect of the Capitol for comment. 

Jane Campbell, president of the U.S. Capitol Historical Society, a nonprofit chartered by Congress to inspire “informed patriotism,” told the Post that while she was angered by Wednesday’s events, she hopes the preservation of items from the day will force people to remember what took place.

“As a historian I want everything preserved,” Campbell said. “I think the people who did the attack on the Capitol are insurrectionist, immoral and bad news all the way around … but if they left stuff behind, it should be preserved and studied later. We have to look at, ‘What did we learn?’ ”

The events Wednesday saw a group of pro-Trump rioters storm through the halls of the Capitol, breaking through windows and doors and ransacking offices throughout the historic building. 

In addition to the items left and the artifacts damaged, laptops were reported missing from the offices of Pelosi, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and others. A Florida man photographed carrying the Speaker’s lectern was also arrested this week. 

Five people died amid Wednesday’s chaos, including a woman who was shot by a Capitol Police officer and an officer who died after suffering injuries while responding to the riot. Both fatalities are under investigation.

Tags Artifacts Capitol breach Congress House Jeff Merkley Nancy Pelosi Preservation Senate Smithsonian Smithsonian Institution The Washington Post

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