Old Wives' Tales
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Claim: Changes to an exhibit at the Washington Monument temporarily made the phrase "Laus Deo" non-viewable by visitors.
Example: [Collected via e-mail, October 2007]
Origins: The idea of creating a monument to honor George Washington, who served as the leader of the Continental Army during the American Revolution, the presiding officer at the convention that drafted the
Although by 1848 the Monument Society had collected a significant amount of money to fund the project, selected an architect and design plan, and laid the cornerstone for the monument, the Washington Monument would not be finished for another
Work on the monument was finally completed when the capstone was set in place on
As we noted in a previous article about the monument, the apex of the structure was crowned
Because the inscriptions on the monument's capstone (sitting atop the
Sometime recently, however, the exhibit was changed so that the capstone replica, instead of being displayed at an angle relative to the wall behind it (thus making the inscriptions on all four sides viewable), was placed with the side representing the east face of the capstone set parallel to the wall (thus rendering the "LAUS DEO" inscription on that side non-viewable to visitors, as they cannot get between the exhibit case and the wall to see it). The last sentence of the informational card which previously accompanied the capstone exhibit ("The casting was inscribed with the phrase, Laus Deo, [Praise be to God]") was also omitted in the newer version.
The NPS' Chief of Public Affairs acknowledged the changes, said that they had been made inadvertently when the capstore replica was temporarily moved while the monument was undergoing renovations, and stated that the NPS would restore the exhibit to its previous state:
Thank you for your recent e-mail concerning the replica of the Washington Monument capstone and the associated interpretive panel.Last updated: 23 November 2007
The replica capstone was on display in a tent on the National Mall during recent renovation of the Monument. When it was moved inside the Monument, it was placed against the wall. While the change in placement and wording was never intended to offend anyone, we understand why some visitors might feel otherwise.
We made a mistake and we are fixing it.
The capstone is being moved away from the wall so that visitors will be able to read the engravings on all four sides.
In addition, we will install interpretive panels with the exact language found on all sides of the capstone in letters easy to read. These panels will include the phrase "Laus Deo" (Praise be to God - in Latin).
I hope this is an acceptable solution. If you were personally offended, please accept our sincere apology.
And remember to Experience your America in the National Parks often.
Chief of Public Affairs
National Park Service
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