COLUMBIA — After sitting in an attic for more than a century, the original epitaph from Thomas Jefferson's grave was placed on display in Jesse Hall as part of a rededication ceremony on Friday.
"Instead of being stuck in a box in the attic, it is now available for everyone to see," Robert Dickeson, a former Jefferson Club trustee who spoke at the event, told the Missourian.
The event started with Naomi Cupp, chair of the Jefferson Club Board of Trustees, dedicating the epitaph. She was followed by Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin, who recalled the history of the epitaph from its original dedication all the way to its restoration by the Smithsonian Institution.
The epitaph was originally dedicated to the university by the Jefferson family in 1885 and placed by Jefferson's grave marker that stands on the east side of Francis Quadrangle. However, to protect it from deteriorating, it was replaced with a replica and moved inside Academic Hall, which burned down in 1892. From then until 2012, it lay in a fourth floor attic in Jesse Hall. In 2012, it was sent to the Smithsonian Institution for restoration. While it was returned last year, the epitaph couldn't be put on display, as Jesse Hall was undergoing construction, according to MU spokesman Christian Basi.
While the restoration was done free of cost, the expenses associated with shipment and display are expected to be around $113,000.
The event was held two days after a protest by a small group of students who wanted Thomas Jefferson's statue to be removed from the east side of Francis Quadrangle. Members of the student group called Jefferson a racist and a sexist.
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