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Curator of the United States Senate

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The United States Senate Curator is an employee of the United States Senate who is responsible for developing and implementing the museum and preservation programs for the Senate Commission on Art. The Curator Office collects, preserves, and interprets the Senate's fine and decorative arts, historic objects, and architectural features. Through exhibits, publications, and other programs, the Office educates the public about the Senate and its collections.

The current curatrix is Melinda Smith.

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • ✪ Segment 8: Rebuilding the House Chamber
  • ✪ The United States Senate's History and Traditions of the Past 200 Years (1989)
  • ✪ American Artifacts Preview: Russell Senate Office Building
  • ✪ The Senate Reboot
  • ✪ Presidents pro tempore of the United States Senate


The rebuilding of the room following the fire led Latrobe to make several changes. Some of them were large changes, some of them were more subtle. An example of the subtle change was the columns that he was going to use. He was going to use the exactly same design. The entablature was going to be the same. The columns were going to be the same. But in the post fire period he was able to convince the powers that be not to use the crude, what he considered crude, Virginia sandstone. But to use instead a beautiful new marble. He called it a marble; actually it's a breccia. It's a conglomerate stone that he had discovered in upper Montgomery County, Maryland on the banks of the Potomac River. Now, the overall design of the room, Latrobe was also thinking from the very beginning that he did not want to rebuild the room that he had built under Jefferson. This room that he initially constructed, the one that Jefferson knew, the one with the skylights, was shaped like two semi-circles connected by parallelogram. Like a big pill. So, you had a half dome on one side, half dome on the other side and a big arch in between. And these were the ceiling elements that contained the one hundred skylights. And then holding up this, was, of course, the sandstone columns of the original room. After the British burned the room in 1814 and Jefferson was quietly retired to Monticello, and the powers that be in Washington, James Madison or the commissioners that Madison had appointed to oversee repairs to the public buildings none of those people cared. They really didn't care. And so, Latrobe, very early after he is rehired to repair the Capitol, he proposes to rebuild the room as he initially tried to have it built under Jefferson as one big semicircle; one single semicircle covered by a half dome. He was able to show that the floor area would be slightly larger so that you could accommodate more desks and chairs. That's a good idea. It would cost no more. The room was a burnt out shell anyway, so it didn't make any difference how they rebuilt it. The foundations down on the first floor. In other words the structure that would have to carry the load, it would work. They didn't have to rebuild anything down there. So, cost-wise and time-wise, it would make no difference. So, they rather easily allowed Latrobe to rebuild the House Chamber, the room that we now call National Statuary Hall, into a semicircular room covered by a half dome. And that's quite a departure from what the room was when the British came to burn the Capitol. And in the center of the ceiling of the room that we now know as Statuary Hall you will see a round aperture at the very top. And that aperture feeds light and air into the room from a lantern on the roof. This was something Jefferson would have hated. Jefferson hated the idea of a lantern. Well, things are different in 1815. Jefferson, again, is in Monticello. He would not see the Capitol. He never returned to Washington. So, he never saw the rebuilt Capitol. He never saw the lantern that Latrobe built very much against his objections over the Chamber. But only as the repair work was being undertaken after the fire of 1814.

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This page was last edited on 23 June 2019, at 20:28
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