History of the Ohio Battle Flag Collection
Deterioration of the Flags
being enclosed in glass cases, by the 1960s the flags were showing signs of
decomposition. Silk flags from the Civil War era were in particularly bad condition.
In April 1964, the Ohio National Guard Association formed a committee to oversee
the restoration of the flags. A relic restoration expert from the National Park
Service suggested several methods of flag preservation. The cost of each conservation
treatment per flag and the amount of labor needed were important considerations.
The committee determined that the flags were too fragile to be moved and the
preservation work should be conducted in the statehouse annex.
A technician applies water to soften the flag fabric. From Archives/Library collection P 365.
An unfurled flag awaiting conservation. From Archives/Library collection P 365.
photographic record of the flags was created. Flags that were relatively complete
were adhered to nylon backing with polyvinyl alcohol to prevent further loss
and allow them to be displayed. Commercial artist Robert Needham painted illustrations
depicting many of the Civil War battle flags in their complete form. Unfortunately,
some of the flags were too deteriorated to undergo the conservation treatment.
Flags hanging at the Ohio Historical Center, c. 1970. From Archives/Library collection P 365.
was not room in the statehouse rotunda to display a large number of unfurled
flags. In 1970, the flags were moved to the newly constructed Ohio Historical
Center on Seventeenth Avenue in Columbus. The restored flags that were most
complete and those flags in good condition were hung from the ceiling on the
building's second floor plaza. Flags that were less complete or not restored
were displayed in cases. The hanging flags were an impressive display to greet
visitors. However, in this location the flags suffered from exposure to sunlight
and dust. In 1988, they were removed from the plaza and placed in the Ohio Historical
Society collection storage facilities.
The Ohio Historical Society and the Ohio Historical Foundation have recently
launched the Save the Flags Campaign to fund new flag preservation efforts.
The polyvinyl alcohol applied to the flags in the 1960s is causing the fabric
to become increasingly brittle. The new preservation treatment will remove the
polyvinyl alcohol and encapsulate the flags in Stabiltex, a polyester fabric,
for support. Donations have made it possible to ship six Civil War flags of
particular historic significance to Textile Preservation Associates in Keedysville,
The flags to receive treatment are:
1. Regimental colors of the 7th Ohio Volunteer Infantry
2. Regimental colors of the 41st Ohio Volunteer Infantry
3. Regimental colors of the 76th Ohio Volunteer Infantry
4. Regimental colors of the 125th Ohio Volunteer Infantry
5. National colors of the 21st Ohio Volunteer Infantry
6. National colors of the 45th Ohio Volunteer Infantry
When work is completed, preserved flags will be available to examine for
research and, under suitable conditions, exhibited.
About the Author
Lisa Wood is a member of the Archives/Library Museum Access (ALMA) team, which was responsible for the Ohio Battle Flag digitization and cataloging project. She received her bachelor's degree in history and public administration with a concentration in women's studies from Ohio University.