Advisory Committee


The 24th General Assembly passed an act in 1892 requiring "the adjutant-general and the curator of the historical collections, with the advise and consent of the executive council, shall cause the colors, standards and battle flags borne by Iowa regiments and batteries during the war of the rebellion to be placed in hermetically sealed glass cases, in such a manner as to display them to the best advantage, and to preserve them as far as possible from all injury thereto." This action was completed on August 10, 1894; the thirty-third anniversary of the Battle of Wilson's Creek.

For over a hundred years these flags plus later flags from Iowa units who served in the Spanish American War and World War I have stood with honor in the rotunda of the capitol.

These rare artifacts representing the service and sacrifice of thousands of Iowans are seriously endangered from years of display, and a lack of attention and clear assignment of responsibility for their care.

In response to public concerns on the condition of the flags, the 78th General Assembly took action in 1999 by appropriating $50,000 from the capitol restoration funds and assigning the Department of Cultural Affairs "to conduct a study to stabilize the battle flag collection's condition by a professional flag conservator



In January 2000, Fonda Thomsen, a leading flag conservation specialist, conducted a survey of flags in the capitol, state historical museum, the State Historical Society of Iowa's Centennial Building, and the Iowa Gold Star Museum at Camp Dodge. The results of her survey and recommendations were reported to Governor Vilsack and members of the General Assembly. She recommended a strategy to study and stabilize the flags, retrofit exhibit cases in the capitol for rotational display, and to provide for on-going care

The 78th General Assembly appropriated $150,000 in 2000 to begin work. It was determined the first phase of work should focus on 85 flags in the collection of the State Historical Society of Iowa. Specialized textile storage cabinets were obtained, and project staff was hired. Actual work on the flag collection began in January 2001, with the stabilization treatment and physical documentation being completed on-site by the Collections Manager/Flag Conservator.

In 2001 the responsibility for the battle flag collection in the capitol was assigned to the State Historical Society of Iowa by the Iowa legislature. Additional funds for the first phase of work on the collection in the capitol were recommended by the Governor and approved by the legislature in April 2001. This phase of work began in January 2002.


In 2000, Dan Hunter, then director of the State Historical Society of Iowa, appointed representatives of state agencies and public organizations to serve on the Battle Flag Advisory Committee. The Committee was assigned the responsibility to assist in the study and review of information from many states that had undertaken projects to preserve their flag collections. In June 2000, the Committee produced a report entitled "Report to the Governor and the Seventy-eighth General Assembly of Iowa: Iowa Battle Flag Collection Recommendations for Stabilization and Use." (The group formally disbanded in 2001).

These individuals served on the committee:

Steven Sprague - Committee Chair, Battle Flag Advisory Committee
Jerome Thompson - Director, Museum & Archive Bureau
Thomas Morian - Administrator, State Historical Society of Iowa
Elisabeth Buck - Administrative Director, Governor's Office
Dick Nesselroad - Design and Construction, Dept. General Services
Brian Bayles - Director, Department of Veteran's Affairs
Honorable Michael Jager - House of Representatives
Honorable John Jensen - Senate
John Liepa - State Historical Society of Iowa Board
Jerry Gordon - Adjutant Gen. Staff, Director Iowa Gold Star Museum
Mark Willemssen - Legislative Facilities Manager
Joan Arnett - Capitol Guide
Lee Booton - Representative from the Iowa Civil War Roundtables
Honorable Pam Jochum - House of Representatives
Honorable John Judge - Senate
Bill Johnson - Curator, Museum & Archives Bureau
Pete Sixbey - Conservator, Museum & Archives Bureau