Monday, April 11, 2016

The Lost Statue of Minerva

Minerva has been associated with The University of North Carolina at Greensboro since its beginning, when she appeared on the seal of the first diplomas awarded. But she has appeared elsewhere as well. The Class of 1907 gave the College (it was at that time the North Carolina State Normal and Industrial College) a statue of Minerva which was installed in the entrance of the Students’ Building (no longer extant). The seven and a half foot plaster statue of Minerva stood on a wooden base (given by the class of 1908) in that spot from 1908 to 1950.

Photo from 1909 Carolinian (Yearbook)
In 1950, the Students’ Building was razed and Minerva no longer had a place to stand watch over the students. From the 1950s to about 1980 she was placed variously around campus. She spent time in Aycock Auditorium, in storage and in the lobby, and then was moved to the new student building (the Elliott Center, completed in 1953), where she spent time in Cone Ballroom, sometimes on stage, sometimes behind the curtain. At one point, she served as a prop for the Greensboro Garden Club’s flower show in 1965. Throughout all of her journey across campus, she slowly lost pieces and limbs. The plaster statue was designed from the beginning to be taken apart by pieces for ease of shipping and movement, but unfortunately this meant that by the time she ended up in the attic of the Alumni House in the 1980s, she had lost fingers, part of an arm, the snake, and eventually her head!

In 1985, she, or what was left of her, was brought down from the attic and propped up (for her base had become to broken to hold her up) against a wall in the Virginia Dare room for the 13th Annual Senior Day. A movement led by SGA president Lorie Tyson was attempted to restore the statue. Pat Wasserboehr, a faculty member of the art department, thought that the statue could be restored on campus, although she did think it would be “a major task,” since “two arms and a head” would have to be made from scratch. She also estimated the cost in excess of $2,000 dollars.

Minerva in 1985. Photo from Alumni News, Summer 1985.
Unfortunately, the historical record leaves us with no answer as to what happened to the statue after this restoration campaign. What is clear, is that the statue was gone by the 2000s, and a new statue of Minerva was commissioned by the Class of 1953. This newer, beautiful statue of Minerva, sculpted by UNCG Alumni James Barnhill, now stands in the east courtyard of the Elliott University Center, greeting the newest generations of students of UNCG with opportunities for personal growth through education.

We will revisit the story of the Class of 1907 Minerva Statue in the near future on Spartan Stories, and give more background on the statue itself!

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