MOINES) – Deep in the thunderous chaos
of battle, Iowa’s Civil War battle flags provided
an identity and a point of pride for the soldiers
who rallied to save the Union.
Now, as the flags face a second battle – this
time against the forces of time and deterioration
– the State Historical Society of Iowa is calling
on Civil War descendents, re-enactors and history
buffs of all stripes to consider making a contribution
to SHSI’s “Adopt a Flag” program.
The program supports SHSI’s historic battle
flag collection, which includes more than 200 flags
borne by Iowa regiments and batteries during the Civil
War, Spanish-American War and World War I.
“We have the ability to save these flags for
future generations,” SHSI battle flag conservator
Sheila Hanke said. “But with the substantial
cost of stabilization work, we must always be mindful
of budgetary constraints when we plan our conservation
efforts. The ‘Adopt a Flag’ program is
an opportunity for interested donors to help speed
up the preservation process on a particular flag by
granting us the financial power necessary to move
Potential donors can consider several levels of support
as part of the “Adopt a Flag” program.
Each level qualifies the donor for certain benefits.
Donations ranging from $500 to $999 – the “Battalion”
level of support – qualify the donor for a certificate
with an image of the sponsored flag, a battle flag
poster, access to an exclusive online message board,
a set of battle flag postcards, listing in permanent
exhibit signage, and a tour of the battle flag preservation
lab for up to 10 people.
Donations at the “Regiment” level, which
range from $1,000 to $4,999, qualify the donor for
“Battalion” level benefits, two tours
of the preservation lab, and an invitation to a private
preview reception to open flag exhibits.
Donors at the “Brigade” level, from $5,000
to $9,999, receive a personal appearance by a State
Historical Museum curator or conservator alongside
all “Regiment Level” benefits.
Donors at the “Division” level, from
$10,000 to $49,999, receive “Brigade”
level benefits and the right to name an Iowa Battle
Finally, donors at the “Corps” level
of $50,000 or more receive “Brigade” level
benefits and the naming rights to the Iowa Battle
Flag Preservation Lab.
“We think the most significant reward of this
program,” Hanke said, “is knowing you’ve
played a major role in stabilizing these flags, which
really are incredibly fragile.”
The cost to stabilize a single Civil War battle flag
is at least $4,800 or more, depending on the amount
of damage. It is a tedious and delicate process performed
by highly trained and skilled conservators. The process
of preserving a flag takes a skilled conservator like
Hanke up to 240 hours. During the process, up to 8,000
stitches must be individually cut and lifted from
flags to remove gauze from a previous conservation
attempt in the 1890s.
When conservators finish their work, they mount each
flag in a compression frame under a UV-filtering and
scratch-resistant Luxan shield. Each framed flag,
weighing between 200 and 250 pounds, will be rotated
in and out of public exhibition.
To find out more about the “Adopt a Flag”
program, please contact SHSI at 515-281-5111.
The State Historical Society of Iowa is a trustee
of Iowa’s historical legacy and an advocate
for understanding Iowa’s past. It identifies,
records, collects, preserves, manages and provides
access to Iowa’s historical resources. Its dual
mission of preservation and education serves Iowans
of all ages, conducts and stimulates research, disseminates
information, and encourages and supports historical
preservation and education efforts of others throughout
the state. Please visit www.iowahistory.org or call
515-281-5111 for more information.
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