Iowans who’ve always wanted a closer look at those dusty Civil War flags in the state capitol rotunda are finally getting the chance. The State Historical Building is opening its Battle Flag Preservation Laboratory to the general public for tours. Preservationist Sheila Hanke, the battle flag project manager, explains how the tours go. You’ll learn about the conservation process by viewing the flags on the table as works in progress. Hanke says they’ll also pull out various flags from different time periods in the collection and learn about the history of each one. She says the oldest flag in the archives is an 1827 Iowa territorial flag — it’s 36 feet long — but the majority of them are from the Civil War. Most of them are captured Confederate flags and Iowa Civil War unit flags, as well as flags from all ships related to Des Moines or Iowa, in addition to some banners carried by Iowa troops during the Spanish-American War and World War One. Hanke says Iowans are “very passionate” about the collection of rare flags, especially the Civil War flags. She says many people are working up family histories or have a relative who fought in the Civil War, or they may’ve seen the flags in the case years ago when they toured the capitol in Des Moines. The tour is a chance, Hanke says, to see the flags unfurled for the first time in more than a century. Tours will be offered the third Saturday of every month. Reservations can be made by calling the State Historical Building’s museum store at 515-283-1757.
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