Virginia State Capitol updates educational display
On August 24, a new temporary educational exhibit “The Duty to Protect, An Honor to Serve” opened at the State Capitol to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the Division of Capitol Police. Included in one of the interpretive panels was a photo of a Capitol Police officer calmly and professionally addressing a group of people gathered for an event at Capitol Square in March 2017. Yesterday, it was brought to the attention of the Division of Capitol Police and the Library of Virginia who helped coordinate and curate the exhibition as well as to leaders in the General Assembly that one individual among that group in the photo was identified as a white supremacist after the exhibit was installed and unbeknownst to the organizers. Once that fact became known, the picture and panel on which it was displayed were removed within 24 hours.
“We decided to replace the original photo and substitute another picture for the panel to avoid distraction from the exhibit’s sole and primary purpose of commemorating the important work of the dedicated men and women law enforcement officers in Virginia’s Capitol Police,” said Susan Clarke Schaar and G. Paul Nardo, Clerks of the Senate of Virginia and Virginia House of Delegates respectively.
Exclusive of the temporary exhibit, there also are four flags that help interpret the history of the building which is a National Historic Landmark designated by the U.S. National Park Service. During the American Civil War, the Virginia State Capitol building housed both the Virginia General Assembly and the Confederate government. As part of the educational exhibit that has been on display since the State Capitol renovation was completed in May 2007, these flags – selected because of their shared historical significance since each had flown over the State Capitol at some point since it began operation in 1788 – include an early pattern U.S. flag, the second Confederate national flag, a current U.S. flag and a current Virginia state flag. Last year, a systematic, multi-year revisioning of the overall visitor experience for all of Capitol Square was begun. This second phase of reimagining the Capitol visitor experience continues.
The Virginia State Capitol is both a working government building as well as a public museum and popular tourist destination, with well over 100,000 annual visitors.