CVC Watch

Posted January 29, 2007 at 6:52pm

Though major construction is beginning to wind down on the Capitol Visitor Center, a few Members are shopping around some late additions that they feel will add to the facility’s educational and historic significance.

Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) has suggested that Congress place a commemorative time capsule within the 580,000-square-foot underground structure to both celebrate the largest addition in the history of the Capitol and to teach future generations, perhaps 100 years from now, about the important era in which the visitor center was designed and built. [IMGCAP(1)]

Without listing exactly what he’d like to see go into such a capsule, Mica said that “there may be some history relating to the visitor center and to our contemporary times that should be conserved.”

Mica, one of the earliest proponents of the CVC on Capitol Hill, explained Monday that a time capsule could be laid beneath a “centerstone” within the new center, perhaps located on the east wall of the Great Hall. Mica said that becase the CVC will have both House and Senate wings, laying a “centerstone” at the end of the project would be more appropriate than the usual tradition of laying a cornerstone at the project’s beginning.

In the past, presidents have been involved in major additions to the Capitol — George Washington laid the cornerstone to the original building in 1793 and President Millard Fillmore laid the cornerstone of the House wing in 1851 — so Mica said adding a time capsule and a “centerstone” would be a good way for President Bush to keep with tradition.

“He is the sitting president and it is a major expansion of the Capitol, so I think it would be appropriate,” Mica said. “I think it’s significant to carry on that tradition.”

Finding federal funding for the new time capsule and centerstone ideas might be tough in fiscal 2007 since the CVC — which is funded through the legislative branch appropriations bill — will be operating under the full-year continuing resolution just like every other Congressional agency. Mica suggested that he might seek help from private groups, such as the U.S. Capitol Historical Society, to fund the relatively small endeavor.

Another possible addition to the CVC comes at the request of Sens. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), who jointly introduced a bill this month to posthumously award the celebrated Capitol artist Constantino Brumidi a Congressional gold medal and display it in the CVC.

According to the bill, which was referred to the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee for consideration, the medal would be a highlight of a larger CVC exhibit honoring Brumidi, an Italian-born artist who was responsible for many of the masterpieces painted inside the Capitol in the 1860s, including “The Apotheosis of Washington,” which sits high above the floor in the Capitol Rotunda.