Preserving the Past: The Challenges that Museums Face

Posted on June 28, 2013 by

Erin PruhsA blog post by Archaeology Intern Erin Pruhs. Erin is working with the Lloyd Street Synagogue Archaeology Collection under the supervision of Senior Collections Manager Jobi Zink. You can see other posts by Erin and the rest of our interns here.

As an archaeologist I have a very vested interest in preserving our past. Within most museums there are conservators and collection management professionals that work together to determine the best ways to protect our past. Conservation involves a lot of know-how with a wide variety of materials and objects, like Flags! The Star Spangled Banner Flag, which was sewn at the house that is located on the grounds of The Star-Spangled Banner Flag House, had been under extensive conservation over the past few years and is now on display for the public to view at The National Museum of American History Smithsonian Institution.

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Photo via

Conservation began in a laboratory in 1998 where museum visitors observed the conservation process through a 50-foot long glass wall.  In order to figure out the best way to protect and preserve the flag, the current condition of the flag was noted.  After the flag had been properly treated it was photographed.  Due to its size, 73 separate photos were taken and pieced together to get a full image.  After the treatment was completed, the flag was put on display in its new case at a 10 degree angle which provides proper support for the flag and which also allows the best view for visitors.

Photo via

Photo via

Public interaction with museums is important.  Museums offer a distinct learning environment for the public and for schools; it is more than just “pretty things” in display cases – it is a different forum for gaining knowledge.  Objects tell a story and often, as is the case with the Star- Spangled Banner, they are powerful stories.

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