The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History is collecting items such as posters and banners from last week’s Capitol Hill protest and riot.
The National Museum of American History will begin archiving banners, signs and other ephemera from the pro-Trump rallies and subsequent takeover at the Capitol building on Wednesday 6 January.
“As an institution, we are committed to understanding how Americans make change,” said a statement by the museum’s director, Anthea M. Hartig. “This election season has offered remarkable instances of the pain and possibility involved in that process of reckoning with the past and shaping the future.
“As curators from the museum’s Division of Political and Military History continue to document the election of 2020, in the midst of a deadly pandemic, they will include objects and stories that help future generations remember and contextualize Jan. 6 and its aftermath.”
Rapid response collecting
Among the items collected so far is a sign which proclaims “Off with their heads — stop the steal” as well as other posters and banners. Following the protests, curator Frank Blazich was at the National Mall the next day, already collecting objects of interest.
While the cleanup is still underway inside the Capitol building, the museum hopes to work alongside government agencies, congressional offices and the curator for the Architect of the Capitol to collect more items from Wednesday’s violent uprising.
Speaking about the events, Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie G. Bunch III, said, “As a historian, I have always believed in the power of peaceful protest…Demonstrations give us a glimpse of the fragility of our democracy and why the work we do and the stories we tell are so important.”
This type of rapid response collecting is nothing new. Last year, the museum also collected material from the Black Lives Matter protests, along with other institutions. Museums around the world have also been collecting and archiving objects and stories related to the COVID-19 crisis.