As work on the upcoming EHF exhibit continues, we faced the challenge of displaying Greta Anderson’s flag. Greta, an early Ephraim resident who married Aslag Anderson, sewed this 35-star flag during the Civil War. Her cousin, Torger Torgersen, was in the 15th Wisconsin Volunteer Regiment and is one of the soldiers featured in the new exhibit.
Greta’s flag, at over 150 years old, is delicate and was obviously flown at some point. There are some tears and damage due to age. Perhaps the biggest obstacle is size: the flag is 7.5 feet wide by 12 feet long. Despite the display challenges, the flag needed to be included in the exhibit. It tells an important story about Ephraim during the Civil War and about Greta Anderson.
We knew it would be impossible for us to display the flag at its full size. When we laid it out, it took up almost an entire room and barely fit on six tables. Fabric is especially sensitive to the oils which naturally occur on skin, so EHF staff used cotton gloves to carefully handle the flag. This is also a major reason why the flag couldn’t simply be hung on a wall: the temptation to touch would likely prove too great, and the repeated touches over several months would damage the already delicate fabric.
After much discussion, we finally decided to enclose the flag in mylar, a clear archival material that will also protect the flag from dust and dirt. While it looks much like lamination, the mylar process is completely reversible. We first wrapped a broomstick with archival tissue paper, preventing the flag from directly touching the wood. With some creative folding, we were able to hang the flag in such a way that both stars and stripes are visible. Tissue paper was also placed between each fold so there won’t be creases in the fabric when it’s taken off display in October. Finally, the flag was hung on the wall and further secured with nails through the mylar.
See Greta’s flag in the newest EHF exhibit, When Johnny Comes Marching Home: Ephraim’s Civil War Stories, opening June 16, in the Anderson Barn Museum.
-Guest Blogger Emily Irwin