After the Department of Administration said this weekend it had overestimated the cost of the damage from posting signs on the Capitol building’s walls, historians from around the country – even some from the Smithsonian -have begun to place historical value on the signs themselves.
The original $7 million cost estimate of taking down protest signs in the Capitol was too high, critics said, while the Wisconsin Historical Society announced it would be collecting the signs as they come down for posterity.
The signs were taken down Sunday, and no more are allowed to be taped up.
The DOA estimated the hundreds of protest signs taped to the walls had caused more than $7 million in damage because of the variety of marble types that make up the building. But the estimates have been met with skepticism.
John Jorgensen from The International Union of Painters doubted the accuracy of the figure, saying he was confident the projection was a large overestimate.
“After inspecting the Capitol early Friday morning, I am 100 percent confident that any so”called ‘damage’ done by community members expressing their First Amendment rights is nowhere near $7 million,” Jorgensen said in a statement.
He added he would offer IUPAT’s services to clean up any damage on a volunteer basis.
Rep. Kelda Roys, D-Madison, said the DOA was retracting its original estimate for the signs. She said the signs were being collected for their historical value.
“These protest signs not only do not cause damage, but are important as evidence from this historic social movement,” Roys said. “I have spoken with some union leaders, and they say that the Smithsonian Institute will be working in conjunction with the Wisconsin Historical Society to preserve them for their historical value.”
Roys said a political historian from the Smithsonian would be flying into Madison as early as this week to inspect the signs for historical value.
The Wisconsin Historical Society could not confirm whether it was working with the Smithsonian but said in a statement it will begin to immediately solicit signs and artifacts from the protests as well as material associated with all sides of the controversy.
“The process of doing these things is still being developed, but the DOA is aware of our intentions,” said Wisconsin Historical Society spokesperson Bob Granflaten. “At some point in the future, the DOA will take down these signs, and our curators will look at them to determine whether we’ll preserve them.”
He added the society had a great interest in collecting material on the protests while it unfolds.