N.Y.S. Battle Flag Preservation Project

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A section of the large facility is set aside for the Battle Flag Preservation Project, and that was our first stop. The room is large, but not huge. In it are various sized tables where Sarah and Ruth Potter, a Conservation Technician, do their work. The room also contains a portable 'humidity chamber' tent. The humidity chamber is used to introduce a small amount of humidity into the air within the chamber and flag fibers, which allows conservators to more easily straighten and realign the flags, most of which have been rolled up on their staffs for approximately 140 years.

The battle flag collection, with Civil War flags making up approximately 50% of the collection, is held at the capitol building in Albany. It was found that most of the Civil War flags are in fair to poor condition due to age, the way they had been improperly stored, exposed to light, temperature variations, and dust over those long years at the capitol. In the year 2000, conservators inventoried the battle flag collection and carefully wrapped each flag in an acid free tissue material to help slow down deterioration. This was the first step in the Battle Flag Preservation Project.

The flags are brought, a few at a time, from the capitol building in Albany to the Resource Center where they are carefully unfurled, removed from their staff, and laid out upon flat, acid free material covered boards. There they are examined and a course of conservation determined for that particular flag. The flag staffs are also carefully documented, labled, and will be stored in their own area. The flags will not be placed back on their staffs. You will see in the photos that all flags are kept covered with an acid free tissue to help keep them clean before, during, and after conservation efforts have taken place.

In the center of the ceiling is a wooden door roughly 3' by 3'. When each flag is unfurled, photographs are taken of the flag from directly above. The room is equipped with photo studio lights to evenly illuminate the flag, and photographing from directly above helps to eliminate any type of vignitting or other aberations. All phases of the flag conservation procedures are still-photographed and in some instances, video taped. This provides for proper and total permanent documention of each flag undergoing conservation.

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Color Photos Copyright © R.G. Blakeslee 2004