Note: the Virtual Curation Laboratory recently 3-D scanned a bust from the Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site. This guest post gives details about the bust.
by Ethan P. Bullard, Museum Curator, Richmond National Battlefield Park & Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site
On July 15th, 2017, the City of Richmond unveiled its latest public monument: a 12 foot bronze statue of Maggie Lena Walker. The statue is the centerpiece of the Walker Memorial Plaza at 20 West Broad Street. While this monument is a long overdue addition to Richmond’s commemorative landscape, it is not the first statue of Maggie L. Walker. One historic sculpture was created in Walker’s own lifetime.
By the summer of 1934, those close to Mrs. Walker knew that her time on earth was winding down. Walker had been steadily battling diabetes for years but the disease now had a firm grip on her. As an attempt to give Walker “roses while she could still smell them,” some of her colleagues spearheaded an effort to create memorial statuettes. A New York sculptor named Paul Beneduce designed the plaster bust statue which measures approximately 12×7 inches. Mr. Beneduce worked for a Brooklyn-based company called Galvano Bronze Company which later changed its name to Pompeian Bronze Works. Beneduce’s design captures Mrs. Walker with a soft smile and her trademark pearl necklace and cross pendent. The statuettes were cast by the hundreds so that Walker’s friends, colleagues, and family could each own their own memorial tribute. The Independent Order of St. Luke even sold some of these busts as fundraisers for the organization. If the design of this plaster bust looks familiar to you, you may recognize it in its larger form for it was Beneduce’s design that served as the basis for the bronze statue added to the entrance of the Maggie L. Walker Governor School in 2013.
The museum collection here at the Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site actually includes a total of 17 of the small plaster busts. One of the busts was originally owned by Mrs. Walker’s family and this is the version on display in the front parlor of the house museum. But in the mid-1980s, members of the Independent Order of St. Luke donated the other 16 busts to the Park Service. These national treasures still pop up in Richmond antique shops from time to time. So keep your eyes peeled if you want to add one to your own collection Maggie memorabilia.
The Maggie L. Walker bust is on our Sketchfab site: