In 1892, the 24th General Assembly of Iowa passed an act requiring that the "adjunct-general and the curator of the historical collections......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 along with flags from Iowa units who served in the Spanish American War and World War I have been honorably displayed in the rotunda of the capitol building in Des Moines, Iowa. These rare artifacts represent the service and sacrifice of thousands of Iowans and are seriously endangered from years of improper display, and a lack of attention and clear  assignment of responsibility for their care.

In January 2000, the battle flag collection was studied by a professional flag conservator with funds appropriated from the capitol restoration funds by the 78th General Assembly. The conservator 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. Later that year, $150,000 was appropriated to begin work. 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.

The State Historical Society of Iowa's current Collections Manager/Flag Conservator and Historian, Sheila Hanke, will be presenting a talk about the Iowa Battle Flag project at the Muscatine Art Center on Sunday, October 9 at 2:00PM in the Music Room. Sheila is responsible for overseeing the stabilization and documentation of individual flags. She oversees policies, procedures and registration relating to the flag collection. Sheila also manages the conservation laboratory and supervises technical staff. She oversees the development of interpretive exhibitions and related publications.

Those in attendance of the talk will be able to view the progress of the historic conservation of Iowa's military and territorial flags and will learn more about Iowa in the Civil War. For much of the 9 year preservation project, the public has been able to see the conservator at work in the laboratory through tours and video conferencing. The customized laboratory has provided a secure location for these national treasures to be documented, preserved and interpreted. These flags represent not only Iowa's history but Iowa's role in a pivotal event in our nation's history. The preservation effort ensures that future generations will know the stories of the men and women who served this nation. By building a secure conservation laboratory, the State Historical Society of Iowa has provided the public with a unique look into the preservation process while protecting the flag collection.

The talk will be a 45 minute presentation on the history of the grassroots effort to launch the project, the flag collection and the conservation process.

What: Iowa Battle Flag Conservation Project talk by Sheila Hanke
When: Sunday, October 9, 2011
Time: 2:00PM
Where: The Muscatine Art Center's Music Room

Admission to this program is FREE.

Please contact Katy Doherty, Program Coordinator, with any questions or concerns at 563-263-8282 or by email at

The Muscatine Art Center is open to the public Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 10AM to 5PM, Thursday from 10AM to 7PM and Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 5PM.  Admission is FREE.

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