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Photos: Historic Inauguration Will Not Look Like The Past

Crowds outside steps of U.S. Capitol for President Theodore Roosevelt Inauguration.
Library of Congress
Crowds outside steps of U.S. Capitol for President Theodore Roosevelt Inauguration.

Even before rioters stormed the Capitol two weeks ago, the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as president and vice president was going to look different from ceremonies past.

The risk of large crowds with the ongoing pandemic meant there would be no parade down Pennsylvania Avenue, and many of the usual performances and speakers had been replaced with plans for virtual events.

But the riot at the Capitol have meant further changes to the already unusual inauguration plans, with increased security measures around the Capitol and thousands of National Guard troops stationed nearby.


The scaled-down Inauguration Day events represent a loss of what some scholars call "a civil religion" that binds people together, says Barbara Perry, director of presidential studies at the University of Virginia's Miller Center.

"When we don't have the serious parts of our [civil religion], the celebratory parts of that, it's like losing one's religion and ceremonies all at the same time," she says.

With the biggest security presence of any inauguration in history and the National Mall shut down to the public, D.C. residents say they've "never seen anything like this" in their city.

On Monday, Lisa and Alex Brittain made their way toward D.C.'s Union Station, inspecting the fences and security checkpoints along the way.

"It's security on steroids," Lisa Brittain said.


Jackie Coleman, who lives in D.C.'s Southeast district, said her commute had doubled due to the preparations.

"We've never had all this, so it's a little different," she said. "But at least I feel protected, you know?"

Without a big parade or throngs of observers, Wednesday's events will be missing some of the standard fanfare of inaugurations past. But Perry said even the "miniature version" of the inauguration ceremony that will take place in front of the Capitol means a continuation of tradition — that part, at least, will look the same.

"Just as long as the photographers don't take photos looking down the mall," Perry said.

Here's a look at Inauguration Day festivities throughout history, including elements that Biden's ceremony will miss.

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