There’s renewed conflict over more than 300 flags carried into battle by Iowa soldiers.
“Those battle flags are more than just flags,” says Senator Bill Dotzler, a Democrat from Waterloo. “They represent the true spirit and heroic efforts that Iowans gave to preserve our country.”
Dotzler is part of a group of legislators trying to force the Department of Cultural Affairs to continue restoring the flags, which used to be displayed in the state capitol’s rotunda. About a third of the flags have been “conserved” and are ready for display — and state officials announced earlier this year their work was done. Chris Kramer, the deputy director of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, says the rest of the flags have been “stabilized.”
“The elements have already taken control and fabrics don’t last forever,” Kramer says. “What we’re doing is to try to keep those in cases as long as we can, to try to preserve them.”
But Dotzler and other legislators want to force the agency to spend $90,000 next year to resume “restoration” of the flags from conflicts dating back to the Civil War, so historians and the public can view the objects.
“It’s so important for us to preserve our archives and preserve Iowa’s history because in the research of that history, you never know where that will lead us,” Dotzler says, “and what things can be discovered, still, that’s been hidden in our cherished past.”
The Department of Cultural Affairs is hoping to settle this tug-of-war with legislators by having an expert decide whether the flags can and should be restored.
“We’re having someone who’s a leading expert on textiles and on flags,” Kramer says, “and she just literally came in to do an assessment with our team.”
Kramer says the Department of Cultural Affairs has thousands of other important historical objects in its collection which could be preserved with the money legislators want spent on the battle flags.