Autumn Brown Bag Series

Signing of the Constitution by Howard Chandler Christy courtesy of the Architect of the Capitol

The U.S. Capitol Historical Society will present five lunchtime lectures this fall, including book talks and discussions about DC and Capitol art, history, and memorials. All talks will be held on Wednesdays from noon to 1 pm in Ketchum Hall (VFW Building at 200 Maryland Ave. NE; Washington, DC 20002). These brown bag lectures are free and open to the public, though pre-registration is requested.

Pre-register for one or more talks here.

September 20

James Head

James Head

Author James Head will speak about his book on artist Howard Chandler Christy, who is perhaps best known for his Signing of the Constitution painting in the Capitol and painted several portraits included in the Senate collections. Head’s novel, An Affair with Beauty—The Mystique of Howard Chandler Christy: The Magic of Youth, explores the early part of Christy’s life and the way Christy defined a particular kind of feminine beauty for the Jazz Age.

A graduate of the University of Maryland, the George Washington University Law School, and Georgetown Law School, James Head is a law partner with Williams Mullen, P.C., in Tysons Corner, Virginia, where he concentrates in estate planning, business succession planning, trust and estate litigation, and advising private and institutional collectors of art and antiquities. After more than 10 years of exhaustive research and the hundreds of interviews required to bring the Christy legacy to life, Head is currently completing work on the forthcoming two volumes of the An Affair with Beauty trilogy, which are expected to debut in 2018 and 2020.

October 11

Matthew Restall will use the Statue of Freedom as a key to examine ways that European imperialism manifests in Capitol artwork. His talk, “Kissing Freedom, Stealing from Columbus,” will go deeper than the many studies of the ways the art of the Capitol reflects the nineteenth-century United States’s sense of imperial destiny; it will explore the less well-known hemispheric context European imperial ideology in the Americas and its reflection in art and iconography, especially in depictions of Native Americans. Restall will argue that the Capitol’s visual worldview is intimately tied to Latin American precedents and parallels, centered on a complex and conflicted view of Native America(ns), and highly gendered.

Matthew Restall

Matthew Restall

Matthew Restall is the Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Latin American History and Director of Latin American Studies at the Pennsylvania State University. He was educated at Oxford and UCLA, and has since published some twenty books and fifty articles and essays on the history of the Mayas, of the African diaspora in Spanish America, and of the Spanish Conquest period. His best-known book, Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest, is available in six languages. His latest book, titled When Montezuma Met Cortés: The True Story of the Meeting That Changed History, will be published by Ecco/HarperCollins this December. He is both a Kislak Fellow at the Library of Congress and a Capitol Fellow.

October 18

Fabian Jud

Fabian Jud

Scholar Fabian Jud will present “The National Mall as an American Memory Space, 1900-1950.” His talk will consider the impact of political and ethnic subgroups on perceptions of the Mall and the collective identities and memories associated with it. His work examines the development of a unique character in this national space. 

Fabian Jud is a PhD candidate at the University of Zurich. He has already completed an MA thesis, Spatial Analysis of the Ideal City of Washington DC—Symbolism of the City between 1792 and 1902.

November 8

Mark Ozer will speak about his latest book, which details DC’s recent history: Washington DC: The World Capital in The American Century 1941-1990.

Mark Ozer

Mark Ozer

Mark Ozer is a former professor of neurology at the Georgetown University Medical School. He has published more than 15 books, including a series of books on Washington, DC. Ozer is a graduate of Harvard College with honors in history and active in the national capital’s history community. Ozer has been a Washington area resident since 1964.

December 13

With “An Historical Atlas of Washington, DC, 1780s to 2015,” scholar Pamela Scott will focus on how maps—such as plans for DC, including those by Peter L’Enfant and Andrew Jackson Downing—can both create and record design changes. L’Enfant’s 1791 plan for the city has dominated Washington’s physical development for more than two centuries. Downing conceived of his plan for a picturesque Mall as a counterpoint to the formality of L’Enfant’s plan. The Senate Park Commissioners sought to revive its formality with a plan that tamed the land added to the west and south of the city. The Legacy Plan was so named because it looked back to both of these seminal plans to inform Washington’s twenty-first century development.

Pamela Scott is an independent scholar who researches, lectures, and writes about Washington’s architecture, landscape, and planning histories. She taught these subjects for 32 years at various universities with programs in Washington.