Maryland Center for History and Culture’s (MCHC) historic flag and banner collection is in need of extensive conservation work and they found the experts they needed at Fashion Archives and Museum of Shippensburg University (FA&M). Cijianna Berry ’19 -’20M and Dr. Karin Bohleke, director of the Fashion Archives and Museum, are collaborating with MCHC to ensure future generations can enjoy the flags and the unique moments in history they represent.
The flags in MCHC’s collection include American flags with varying numbers of stars; flags carried in battle, including the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Civil War, and both World Wars; commemorative flags; and flags representing local militias from towns across Maryland.
“They are one-of-a-kind objects that possess a lot of stories,” said Harrison Van Waes, MCHC Associate Registrar. “Some of these flags were handmade by the women of the soldiers who went off to fight and were hand-painted in some cases. They survived battle and weather of all kinds. Some lost their lives carrying these flags.”
Over the next year 100 flags will travel to FA&M where Berry and Bohleke will carefully clean, stabilize and create archival housing for the flags before they return to Baltimore.
During Berry’s time in the Applied History graduate program she gained valuable hands-on experience as a textile conservator in the FA&M. When her graduate assistantship in the museum shifted to remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic, Berry worked to move the museums catalog online and developed online exhibits. She saw the experience as an opportunity to help expand FA&M’s reach and increase public interest. With this project requiring both textile work and the digitizing of the flag collection, Berry is prepared and doing what she loves following her time at Ship.
You can view several of the flags set for restoration here.