Va. museum agrees to take Lee statue after removal from US Capitol

The Richmond-based Virginia Museum of History & Culture has agreed to inherit a large statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee housed in the U.S. Capitol if the decision is made to remove it.

Museum president and CEO Jamie Bosket said the facility would accept ownership of the Lee monument after being asked to do so by the state’s Commission for Historical Statues in the U.S. Capitol.

In late July, Gov. Ralph Northam relayed the commission’s request for the statue’s speedy removal to the Capitol architect. It has sat for over a century in the Capitol’s Statuary Hall, which houses statues from two historically significant residents of each state’s choosing — Virginia’s other statue is of George Washington.

“Given the history of the statue’s creation, its placement at the U.S. Capitol in 1909, and the history of its removal in 2020, we believe this to be an artifact of historical importance,” Bosket wrote in a letter to Julie Langan, director of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.

Bosket said the Lee statue will help “fulfill representation of the historical moments,” as part of “the ever-evolving story of the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

The request is the Virginia government’s latest attempt to distance itself in an official capacity from Confederate icons after the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police sparked widespread protests and introspection about racial injustice.

It does not, however, appear the Lee statue would promptly be put on display at the museum.

“We would accept this object into our collection as an unrestricted gift from the Commonwealth without obligation related to its use or display,” Bosket wrote, adding that planned renovations and expansions will “certainly require that this piece be in secure storage for at least a few years.”

Virginia would pay for the removal of the statue from the U.S. Capitol and its transportation to Richmond.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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