MU adds casing to protect Thomas Jefferson tombstone

1 month 18 hours 57 minutes ago Sunday, September 20 2020 Sep 20, 2020 Sunday, September 20, 2020 4:25:00 PM CDT September 20, 2020 in News
By: Lucy Caile, KOMU 8 Digital Producer and Cory Johnson, KOMU 8 Reporter

COLUMBIA - A clear casing was added to Thomas Jefferson's tombstone at MU Saturday night.

The acrylic vitrine covering cost about $20,000 and was installed to protect the monument from vandalism, MU spokesperson Christian Basi told KOMU 8.

"This is Jefferson’s original tombstone, and it was entrusted to the university. We have a responsibility to ensure it is preserved appropriately," he said.

It comes after the university said the tombstone and adjacent statue would stay after a petition circulated over the summer.

"We learn from history. We contextualize historical figures with complex legacies. We don’t remove history," UM System President and MU Chancellor Mun Choi said.

3,500 people signed the petition taking issue with Jefferson's ownership of slaves.

A group of students, faculty, staff, donors, curators, and historians was formed to review plans to "contextualize" Jefferson's legacy. A recommendation is due next spring.

Motion-sensor lights and security cameras were also added to the area after two people were arrested in July for tampering with the statue. One was charged with property damage for spray-painting graffiti on the sidewalk next to the statue referencing Sally Hemings, a slave owned by Jefferson.

The tombstone was given to the university from the Jefferson estate in 1885. It recognizes MU as the first university founded in the territory acquired by Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase.

It’s been moved several times, but currently sits adjacent to the Francis Quadrangle and Chancellor’s Residence.

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