April 07, 2020

Historic banner collection to be displayed in Hall of Flags

AUGUSTA – Workers are putting the flags back in the Hall of Flags after the removal of 34 historic banners from cast-iron cases that once held the state’s most cherished flags.

Last week, workers from the Maine State Museum began installing a new exhibit on the state’s flag collection, including replicas of some.

The temporary exhibit, which was timed to ensure it will be in place when the Legislature is sworn in this week, will give State House visitors a glimpse of the state’s 335-flag collection.

The exhibit uses replicas, photos and printed information.

“I think it’s great,” Sen. Beverly Daggett, D-Augusta, said Friday in the Hall of Flags as workers assembled the exhibit nearby.

The display includes a replica of a Kennebeck Guards militia flag from the 1820s, information on the range of the state’s collection, and replicas of flags carried by three Civil War units including the famous 20th Maine Infantry.

“The flags are the life of the Hall of Flags,” said Laurie La Bar-Kidd, curator of historic collections at the museum and the person in charge of the new exhibit.

“The whole point of the Hall of the Flags was to honor our veterans and I hope this will honor our veterans and their descendants.”

The 335 flags in the state museum’s collection include 284 military flags, more than 140 of which date from the Civil War era, as well as 51 civilian banners, including temperance banners.

None of the original flags is included in the Hall of Flags exhibit, which will remain in place until the middle of next year.

Nor will any of them be included in a permanent exhibit that museum officials hope to install in the Hall of Flags after renovations have been completed.

La Bar-Kidd says the original flags cannot be returned to the State House because they are too fragile to be stored there.

The permanent exhibit may be in place by late next year.

It should include nylon replicas of 20 or more of the flags that hung in the State House until last spring.

“It’s kind of sad that we can’t keep the old flags here, but they’re deteriorating,” said Sen. Paul Davis, R-Sangerville, who served on a committee that studied the issue.

“They would be gone in no time.”

Although the historic flags won’t be returning to the State House, officials plan to establish a permanent exhibit at the nearby state museum in 2002.

It will display the original flags, three or four at a time, on a rotating basis for six months at a stretch.

That will spare them from the slow deterioration that was their fate at the State House.

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