The art in the Senate wing of the U.S. Capitol and the Senate office buildings has been acquired principally for its public, patriotic, and commemorative characteristics. Not conceived as a conventional art collection, the Senate's art instead is intended to commit to posterity the persons and events of our national history, centered upon the institution of the Senate and on the founding of the Republic.
Office of Senate Curator
The Office of the Senate Curator, on behalf of the Senate Commission on Art, develops and implements the museum and preservation programs for the United States Senate. The 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 Senate Commission on Art is comprised of five senators, who serve on an ex officio basis: The president pro tempore, the chairman and ranking minority member of the Committee on Rules and Administration, and the majority and minority leaders. The secretary of the Senate serves as executive secretary to the Senate Commission on Art.
The Office of Senate Curator exercises supervisory responsibility for the Old Senate and Old Supreme Court Chambers in the U.S. Capitol, compiles detailed records of all works of art in the Senate's historical collections, including paintings, sculpture, prints, frescoes, furniture and other decorative arts, and memorabilia. The office also protects and cares for these objects and, when appropriate, directs conservation and restoration treatment by professional conservators. The curator and staff suggest acquisitions, and engage in research of the historic collections of the Senate.
In 1999, the Senate Commission on Art initiated a preservation program to ensure the protection of the Senate's architectural treasures. The historic preservation officer drafts policies and procedures to guide the research, planning, management, and performance of all interventions in the Senate wing of the Capitol and Senate Office Buildings. The primary goal of these guidelines is to coordinate all preservation efforts in the Senate wing of the Capitol and Senate Office Buildings in an effort to preserve the historic fabric and original artistic intent while interpreting the history and evolution of these historic buildings.
With the establishment of the U.S. Capitol Preservation Commission (P.L.100-696), the Senate Commission in Art became the designated recipient of Senate-associated objects received by the Preservation Commission. Provisions of this law also stipulate that the Senate commission on Art, in cooperation with the House of Representatives Fine Arts Board and the Architect of the Capitol, "shall provide to the Capitol Preservation Commission such staff support and assistance as the Preservation Commission may request."
Exhibits featuring documents, prints, and memorabilia are organized by this office to provide staff and the general public with a better understanding of the Senate's history and collections.
The Office of the Senate Curator assists senators and staff in liaison with museums and galleries and provides recommendations to members regarding proper accord and treatment of fine arts and memorabilia. Under the Foreign Gifts and Decorations Act (5 USC 7342), the Senate Commission on Art is responsible for the disposition of gifts accepted by members or employees of the Senate and deposited with the secretary of the Senate. The Curator's Office assists the secretary and Commission in this process, and maintains records on all foreign gift transactions.
Melinda K. Smith, Curator
Alexander "Sasha" Lourie, Associate Curator
Kelly Steele, Historic Preservation Officer
Jennifer Krafchik, Collections Manager
Theresa Malanum, Registrar
Megan Hipsley, Collections Specialist
Richard L. Doerner, Museum Specialist
Phillip Rokus, Executive Assistant
For more information, contact the Senate Curator's Office:
Office of the Curator
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510-7102