The National Statuary Hall Collection: The Basics

All text in quotation marks is from documents furnished by the Architect of the Capitol.

What is it?

“The creation of the National Statuary Hall Collection was authorized by the United States Congress in 1864 to allow each State to provide two statues of notable citizens for display in the United States Capitol. The Joint Committee on the Library of Congress has oversight of the collection, and under the committee’s direction the Architect of the Capitol (AOC) is responsible for the reception, placement, and care of the statues.” [See also: History of Statuary Hall (external link).]

Who decides?

“Each statue is the gift of a state, not of an individual or group of citizens. Proceedings for the donation of a statue usually begin in the state legislature with the enactment of a resolution that names the citizen to be commemorated and cites his or her qualifications, specifies a committee or commission to represent the state in selecting the sculptor, and provides for a method of obtaining the necessary funds to carry the resolution into effect.”

Who is eligible for a statue?

“The subject of the statue must be a deceased person who was a citizen of the United States and is illustrious for historic renown or for distinguished civic or military service. Statues may represent only one individual (ruling adopted by the Joint Committee on the Library at meeting of March 13, 1950). Statues should represent the full length of the individual.”

What are the rules for replacing a statue?

“In accordance with legislation enacted in 2000, ‘Any State may request the Joint Committee on the Library of Congress to approve the replacement of a statue the State has provided for display in Statuary Hall’ under two conditions:

(A) the request has been approved by a resolution adopted by the legislature of the State and the request has been approved by the Governor of the State, and

(B) the statue to be replaced has been displayed in the Capitol of the United States for at least 10 years as of the time the request is made, except that the Joint Committee may waive this requirement for cause at the request of a State.”

What are the steps for replacing a statue?
  1. “The State legislature enacts a resolution that identifies the statue to be replaced, names the individual to be newly commemorated and cites his or her qualifications, selects a committee or commission to represent the State in selecting the sculptor(s), and directs the method of obtaining the necessary funds to carry the resolution into effect. Expenditures for which the State is responsible include the cost of paying the sculptor; carving or casting the statue; creating a pedestal and any desired inscription; transporting the statue and pedestal to the United States Capitol; removing and transporting the replaced statue; temporarily erecting the new statue in the Rotunda of the Capitol for the unveiling ceremony; expenses related to the unveiling ceremony; and any other expenses that the State commission may find it necessary to incur.
  2. “A letter from a duly authorized state official with a copy of the legislation approved by the governor is then sent to the Architect of the Capitol, who will inform the Joint Committee on the Library that the State wishes to replace a given statue.
  3. “The Joint Committee on the Library will approve or deny the request.
  4. “If the request is approved by the Joint Committee on the Library, the Architect of the Capitol will formalize an agreement with the State to guide the process. The agreement consists of the state’s commitment to follow the guidelines for the design and fabrication of statues (see below) and to take responsibility for any cost related to the design, construction, transportation, and placement of the new statue; the removal and transportation of the statue being replaced; and any unveiling ceremony. The state will also agree to submit photographs of the maquette, the model, and the completed statue to the Architect of the Capitol, who will make a recommendation to the Joint Committee on the Library regarding final approval.
  5. “The holding of an unveiling ceremony is optional. Permission to use the Rotunda must be granted by concurrent resolution of the Congress, and legislation by the Congress is required to authorize printing of the proceedings at Government expense. The State commission may contact the State delegation in Congress for assistance and for introduction of the required legislation. Any legislation relating to use of the Rotunda for unveiling ceremonies or to the printing of proceedings is referred to and acted on by the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration and the Committee on House Administration prior to action by the Senate and House of Representatives.”
What are the size and material restrictions for the statues?
  • “Material. The statue must be made of marble or bronze.
  • “Pedestal. To reduce weight, the Architect of the Capitol recommends that the pedestal be a hollow steel frame faced in marble or granite or be made of bronze. It is also recommended that the pedestal be designed and constructed with a removable panel to allow access to attachment bolts. The pedestal design, dimensions, and weight must be submitted to the Architect of the Capitol for approval.
  • “Inscriptions. Inscriptions on the pedestal should include the name of the State and of the individual represented. The preferred option is to carve such inscriptions. Alternatively, they can be engraved or cast on a plaque. Any additional inscription should be submitted for review and approval to the Joint Committee on the Library via the Architect of the Capitol.
  • “Size and Weight. New statues should be no more than 7 feet in height, with the statue and pedestal not exceeding 10 feet in total height. The total weight of the statue and its pedestal should be no more than 10,000 pounds. A replacement statue should be no taller or heavier than the statue being replaced.
  • “Patina and Coating. For bronze statues, the selected patina and coating must be easily maintained and repaired. Formulas must be provided to the Architect of the Capitol for use during future maintenance.
  • “Other Considerations. The statue and pedestal should not be a potential source of safety hazards. They should not have any protruding or sharp element that could cause harm or be an obstacle for persons in the building.”

See also:

Office of the Architect of the Capitol
National Statuary Hall: Origin of the Collection
Statue Replacement Guidelines (pdf from the Architect of the Capitol)
Sample Statue Replacement Agreement (pdf from the Architect of the Capitol)