Contact Us Search www.ohiohistory.org



History of the Ohio Battle Flag Collection

Deterioration of the Flags

A technician applies water to soften the flag fabric. From Archives/Library collection P 365.

A technician applies water to soften the flag fabric. From Archives/Library collection P 365.

Despite 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.
An unfurled flag awaiting conservation. From Archives/Library collection P 365.

An unfurled flag awaiting conservation. From Archives/Library collection P 365.

A 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.

Flags hanging at the Ohio Historical Center, c. 1970. From Archives/Library collection P 365.

There 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, Maryland.

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.



1 |  2 |  3 |  4 |  5 |  6 |  7 |  Bibliography
Relic Room


Related Links

 

For more information please contact us at battleflags@ohiohistory.org
Ohio Historical Society © 2000 All Rights Reserved.