An Historic Repair Job: The Original "Star-Spangled Banner"

When the National Museum of American History, part of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., reopened in 2008, the centerpiece of the museum was the original Star-Spangled Banner, the very one that inspired Francis Scott Key to write our national anthem.  The flag has been at the Smithsonian Institution since 1907 and first flew during the War of 1812.The flag was removed from the museum’s walls in 1994 after years of public viewing. 

Museum directors assembled a team of 50 conservators, flag historians, and curators, who, together, planned the complete restoration and resting place of the national treasure. During restoration, the flag was housed in a 40-foot-by-50-foot environmentally controlled laboratory.  It took 10 months to remove the 1.7 million stitches that attached the flag to its linen backing and painstakingly remove the 60 previous repairs. Workers, lying on their stomachs on a platform above the flag, then cleaned the 1,020 square feet of material with cosmetic sponges. A temperature, light, humidity, and oxygen-controlled exhibit hall was constructed at the Smithsonian.

In all, it took eight years to complete the restoration project, which was funded by a donation from Ralph Lauren. Now that’s flying style!

Tribune Chronicle, (Warren, Ohio), July 1, 2011

Our American Flag, History and Etiquette, A Special Supplement to the Tribune Chronicle, (Warren, Ohio), July 1, 2011.

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Volume 2, Issue 1, Posted 4:02 PM, 07.02.2014