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Conserving a GAR parade flag

February 8, 2013

In the past few years, the Conservation Department has worked on a number of historically important flags from Michigan, including several Civil War battle flags.

This flag dates from the end of the 19th century and was used by a GAR post in Lyons, Michigan. The GAR (Grand Army of the Republic) was a Union veterans’ organization formed after the Civil War and there were posts in almost every town in Michigan. This flag would have been used in parades on patriotic occasions in Lyons. In 1917 the flag was donated to the town “to raise at funerals of GAR or veterans of any war.” It was displayed for many years in the Lyons-Muir Historical Museum. Its caretakers recognized the need to preserve it and brought it to Textile Conservator Fran Faile.

Over the course of several months, the flag was humidified and flattened to reduce distortions in the weave. It was stabilized and protected by encasing it between layers of sheer nylon tulle. Hand stitching secures all the small fragments of fabric from moving or being lost. The Historical Society is presently having a protective case built that will enable the flag to rest flat rather than be stressed by continued hanging.

Years of use and display had made the silk fabric very fragile.

The painted lettering was especially brittle.

All the fragments were flattened and arranged between the layers of tulle.

The paint was humidified and flattened.

Ready to be installed in its new case!

Fran Faile has been the Textile Conservator at The Henry Ford since 2000.

conservation, flags