America’s First Museum Displays Flag Collection

The collection of the Charleston Museum includes flags spanning two centuries from the Civil War era as well as an unusual 42 star United States flag.

America’s first museum got a patriotic makeover on Monday, May 5, 2014.  Dozens of flags went on display at Charleston Museum’s new exhibit called “Unfurled: Flags from the Collections of the Charleston Museum.”

The display will include flags spanning two centuries including Civil War era flags, which opened with the bombardment of nearby Fort Sumter, banners of unreconstructed white Southerners, who formed rifle clubs after the war, an unusual 42-star United States Flag, and the first Confederate national flag, a rare seven-star Stars and Bars which was only used for a few months, among others.

42-star flag
This 42-star flag was never officially adopted by the US because Idaho became the 43rd State before they had the opportunity.

The museum, which was established in 1773 will have the rare historical exhibit on display until January 4, 2015.  Although 8 months is a relatively long time for fragile flags to be on display, the recently renovated textile gallery makes the longer display possible.

Light can fade textiles over time and damage fibers so the museum underwent renovation in order to reduce the harmful effects of too much light exposure.  “When we set out to construct this gallery we consulted with a textile conservator on everything from ventilation to light,” said Grahame Long, the museum’s chief curator.  “But we still don’t want to have textiles out too long.”

Militia flag, c. 1861
Militia flag, c. 1861

In order to reduce illumination, LED lights were installed in the displays, which produce less heat and ultraviolet radiation.  The museum also went through great precautions to make sure fragile flags were displayed on mats because they are unable to hang free.  Flags were also carefully stored rolled or in drawers away from the light.

Schedule a trip to see all the history in person before the exhibit ends on January 4, 2015.  Feel free to visit there website, Facebook page, or Twitter account for more information.

Source: Washington Post via The Associated Press

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