As an example, Kluth cited the Reichstag, in Berlin, where the German Parliament meets. Renovating the building in the 1990s, construction workers discovered graffiti that had been scrawled on the walls by Russian soldiers when they seized control of the Reichstag from Nazi Germany in 1945. While some of the more offensive messages were removed, much of the graffiti was maintained in place for posterity as “a subtle warning against nationalism, hubris, and jingoism,” Kluth wrote.
Nick Cullather: The architecture of fear has already made Congress worse
Similar architectural decisions have been made elsewhere in Europe, from the National Museum in Prague to the General Post Office in Dublin. There’s also precedent in the United States itself. Scorch marks remain on the White House from when the British burned it in 1814, and a desk drawer in the Capitol retains a bullet hole from when Puerto Rican nationalists attacked the building in 1954.
Kim’s desire to maintain damage from the insurrection has been echoed by other lawmakers in both parties. Senator Mitt Romney recently suggested preserving “evidence of the destruction” so that people touring the building 150 years hence, when there will be no lived memory of the events of January 6, will say, “Ah, this is where that insurrection occurred.” Romney’s press secretary, Arielle Mueller, told me that “the senator has had informal conversations with [the] Senate curator’s office and the Architect of the Capitol about preserving parts of the damage.”
Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, who represents D.C. in Congress, told me that her office has reached out to Romney’s. Her staff is also investigating what insurrection-related damage remains at the Capitol and developing a bill directing Capitol authorities to preserve and display it somehow, as visible evidence of what occurred at a time when Americans’ shared sense of reality has been shattered.
“We don’t want the Capitol to be a wreck or anything of the kind,” she said, “but we do think it would be a disservice to erase this historic event.” This was “unprecedented,” she emphasized. Yes, the British burned the Capitol in 1814. But “that wasn’t from the inside.”
She envisions something to point to in the Capitol, maybe with a plaque under it so visitors can discover the damage on their own, blended in with the business of Congress. “I’d not want the tour guide to have to go out of his way. I want him to go past the very same places that he goes anyway,” she said. “And as he goes through, he should not simply [be] saying, ‘The Rotunda is where we meet and have these extraordinary services.’ He should also point to, if there is a marking there, what happened”—not just the tragedy of the insurrection but also the triumph of lawmakers returning to the Capitol immediately after the trauma to affirm the results of the 2020 election.