MARLTON, N.J. (CBS) — The blue suit worn by New Jersey Congressman Andy Kim became iconic in January when he wore it while helping to clean the Capitol Rotunda after rioters stormed the complex. Now, that suit is a part of the Smithsonian collection.
Rep. Kim, D-NJ 3rd District, said he bought it to wear to President Joe Biden’s inauguration. He decided to wear it early for the Electoral College vote certification on Jan. 6, not knowing it would become a piece of American history.
Exactly six months after the Capitol insurrection, Kim shared the backstory of the suit on Twitter, where it continues to rack up thousands of likes and retweets.
6 months ago today I wore this blue suit as I cleaned the Capitol after the insurrection, now I just donated it to the Smithsonian. Jan6 must never be forgotten. While some try to erase history, I will fight to tell the story so it never happens again. Here is one story…(THREAD) pic.twitter.com/GKePd1ZMrr
— Andy Kim (@AndyKimNJ) July 6, 2021
“It was a suit that every time I saw it in my closet, it reminded me of Jan. 6,” he said. “It was something that I didn’t want to think about.”
But the suit evolved from being a reminder of a traumatic and terrifying experience to a beacon of hope, once photos of Kim cleaning the Capitol in the suit were shared widely.
“I started receiving literally thousands of cards from all over the country, people who never met me, never heard of me before, were just moved by that image of me cleaning up the floor of the Capitol,” Kim said.
The Smithsonian was moved as well, and Kim said a museum representative called to ask him if he would donate the suit to its collection.
“I don’t think that anyone ever thinks that anything that we will do or wear or anything like that would end up in the Smithsonian, so it was a very bizarre experience for me to realize that this suit meant something to other people very different than how I understood it,” Kim said.
Kim said he purchased the suit on sale at J. Crew and that it fit well. But he’s happy to give it up to ensure that people remember the bright moments from a very dark day.
“They want to be able to tell the different sides, not just the destruction and the tragic aspect of it, the recovery,” he said. “I think that that’s a part of the story that needs to be told.”
It’s not yet clear how and when the suit will be displayed, but Kim said it’ll be surreal to take his children to the Smithsonian one day to see it.
In a statement, Melinda Machado, director for the Office of Communications and Marketing from the National Museum of American History wrote in part: “We can confirm that Rep. Andy Kim’s suit has been received by the museum as part of a larger collecting initiative to continue to assess now and in the future what historians and the public will know about Jan. 6, 2021.
We are grateful to all our partners, including Congress, who have contributed to the Smithsonian collections. Our curatorial staff, including in the division of political and military history, continue to monitor the evolving situation regarding the election of 2020 and the Capitol building insurrection and interruption of the final ratification of that election.”