Museum Curator: Getting Confederate Statue ‘Like Getting King Tut’

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Rob Shimshock Education Reporter
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A Florida museum curator made a comparison Thursday between getting a Confederate statue relocated from Washington, D.C., and getting the tomb of King Tutankhamen.

A statue of Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith will move from National Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., to Lake County Historical Museum in Tavares, Florida, reported the Orlando Sentinel.

“For us, it’s like getting King Tut,” museum curator Bobby Grenier said. “It’s a historic piece and it’s a treasured work of art, and it belongs in a museum … and that’s what we’re providing — a home, where it can be displayed with dignity and honor.”

Each state is represented with two statues in the National Statuary Hall. Florida state senators previously voted unanimously to replace the monument with a statue dedicated to civil rights leader Mary McLeod Bethune. The Bethune statue will accompany one of Floridian mechanical cooling inventor John Gorrie. (RELATED: Florida Ditches Capitol’s Confederate Statue For Civil Rights Leader)

Grenier addressed placing the Gen. Smith statue in the museum, which is located in Lake County, the same county presided over by Sheriff Willis McCall, a white officer whom the FBI confirmed had unjustifiably shot two black defendants in the Groveland Four rape case.

“I don’t see that as an issue. Why? Because it’s in a museum …. I didn’t even put that together — no relation, no nothing,” Grenier said. “[The statue is] not going to be right out there for the people who are sensitive to that history.”

Grenier discussed Smith’s role in the Civil War while petitioning Florida’s State Location Selection Committee to move the statue to his museum.

“How are you going to tell the story, the good and the bad, of this Floridian?” committee member Steve Birtman said, noting that Smith was shot in the shoulder during the First Battle of Bull Run. “This whole war was a very dark period in our history and still plagues us today in some respects.”

“Whether it’s good or bad, history is what it is,” the curator said, saying that historians are responsible for educating citizens. “Whatever feelings people have, whether they’re negative feelings or positive feelings, whether it’s hate or racism, whether it’s heroism or courage or whatever, all comes from us as individuals, what’s inside of us.”

Grenier estimated the removal, transportation and reinstallation of the Smith statue might cost up to $10,000.

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