The banners carried by Iowa soldiers survived the Civil War but now face a battle with time and the elements. Sheila Hanke is a battle flag conservator at the State Historical Society of Iowa which is launching an “Adopt a Flag” program to raise money so the tattered remnants of state history can be preserved for many more decades.
Hanke says “The flags have been hanging up in the capitol for over 107 years deteriorating and we have no photographic evidence of them, we have no descriptions, no histories, and the project is to get that whole background and make it available to Iowans and to the nation.”
Hanke says it costs nearly five-thousand dollars just to stabilize a single Civil War battle flag, depending on the damage, and may take a skilled conservation team 240 hours. More than half of Iowa’s collection of 200 Civil War battle flags has already been preserved, but that’s taken many years and many tens of thousands of dollars.
Hanke says there are 90 more Civil War flags to get stabilized which will take ten years. To get them in an “exibital state,” so they could be displayed for the public, she says it would take five more years. Plus, there are also a batch of flags from the Spanish-American War and from World War One.
Hanke says any donation is welcome as part of the Adopt a Flag program, with incentives being offered for amounts ranging between 500 and 50-thousand dollars. She says interested donors can help speed up the preservation process on a particular flag by granting the conservators the financial power needed to move quickly.
She says the flags are “not only state treasures, they’re national treasures. Iowa played such a significant role in the Civil War and directly afterwards in the politics and in the growth of our nation. I don’t believe all of Iowa is aware of such an important role that Iowans played. It’s such a proud history. We should be able to preserve that.” For more information on adopting a flag, call (515) 281-5111 or surf to “www.iowahistory.org”.