By Camille Myers Breeze
One of the most challenging flags that we conserved for the General George Patton Museum of Leadership is Patton's Western Task Force flag. The hoist binding is covered with signatures of the General and his men, whose victorious attack against Nazi forces in North Africa Allies concluded on November 18th, 1942. (Read Captured in Casablanca.)
From the front, the flag looks like all the others we have conserved. If you look at the back, however, you can also see all of the signatures on that side of the hoist. Here's how we accomplished the challenging task of making sure all of the men's names can be studied.
First, the flag was positioned on the panel and the location of the cut out was determined. A solid line was drawn on the aluminum in Sharpie marker. Holes were then drilled at the corners to allow the jig saw to pass through. Once the section was cut out, we the irregular and sharp edge were sanded with fine sand paper on a block.
The cut out was sealed with aluminum tape, which provided a solid wall inside the cut out. Thin archival padding was then double-stick taped to the inside wall. A finished edge to the cutout essential, so we ironed 3-mil BEVA film to strips of mounting fabric to make them heat sensitive. The strips were then ironed on to the panel.
Like all flag mounts, this one was covered with 1/4-inch archival polyfelt. The padding was then voided to match the cut out. The panel was covered as usual with khaki cotton fabric, which also needed to be voided. When this was complete, the flag was positioned on the mount and pinned in place. The flag was hand stitched to the panel along the hoist binding first to insure perfect alignment. The cut out was eventually covered with Melinex, attached with double-stick tape, to prevent the flag from being touched.
The signatures on the underside of the flag hoist are now visible, however the security guards in the Patton Museum will probably get upset if everyone squats on the floor and tries to crawl behind the brackets that hold each flag at a 45-degree angle. If you are a VIP scholar, however, all of the signatures are now accessible for study.
by Jen Nason
Museum Textile Services had the honor of working on a large WWII flag with a magnificent history. Hanging in our studio for several months was the first Nazi flag ever captured by US forces. It was captured in Axis-occupied Casablanca, Morocco, on November 11th, 1942, and given to American General George Patton for his birthday on the same date.
Apart from the movie Casablanca we had never before heard reference to the Nazi presence in North Africa, so we decided to take a history lesson. On November 8th, 1942, an attack, named Operation Torch, was initiated in French northern Africa. It was the first time that American and British forces jointly planned an invasion together.
There were three proposed points of attack: Casablanca, Oran, and Algiers. Each location was allocated its own task force. Casablanca was under the Western Task Force, commanded by General George Patton; Oran was under the Central Task Force, and Algiers was under the Eastern Task Force. Each task force was met by Axis resistance, however, all succeeded in capturing the important cities of French northern Africa within a few days time. The Allies claimed victory on November 18th, 1942.
The Allied victory gave them the strength and confidence to stage other invasions in Axis Sicily and Italy in 1943. It was through these campaigns that gained the Allies even more confidence and strength. With their new and improved assets, the Allies went in on to defeat the Axis powers in 1945.
It has been amazing to have such an important and daunting piece of history here at Museum Textile Services. Numerous clients, and even our UPS delivery man, received the verbal warning before entering the studio that we were working on a potentially disturbing artifact. Some were conflicted and others downright awed, but all gained a new appreciation for the complicated role a conservator plays in protecting history.
Stay tuned for the next blog about the conservation techniques we developed especially for this flag.
By Courtney Jason
On December 10, 2012, a shipment of 20 flags arrived at the MTS from Fort Knox, KY. These flags have a particularly interesting history, as many hail from the personal collection of General George Patton. They belong to the General George Patton Museum of Leadership, which is undergoing a major renovation and reinterpretation.
The Ft. Knox flags range from a 11.5" x 17" Confederate Calvary guide on to an 80" x 130" Nazi flag. The collection also includes several WWII Army flags, and a North Vietnamese flag that was recovered from a booby-trapped location. The collection is here to be cleaned, stabilized and mounted for display when the Patton Museum reopens later this year.
So far we have vacuumed the flags with a HEPA filtering vacuum to remove any particulate matter. Next we will humidify those with planar distortions using the Gore-Tex system described in a previous blog about the Orra White Hitchcock textiles from Amherst College.
The majority of the flags will be mounted on aluminum solid-support panels manufactured for us by Small Corp, Inc in Greenfield, MA. Each panel will have a layer of 1/4-inch Polyfelt from University Products in Holyoke, MA, covered with khaki-colored cotton poplin from Phillips-Boyne in Farmingdale, NY.
All of the flags except for the Nazi flag will be pressure mounted on a solid-support panel. They will be centered on the panel and hand stitched to the cotton using a curved needle. Only minimal stitching around the perimeter, along several strategic points in the body, and along the fringe, is required.
A sheet of UV-filtering acrylic will provide the rest of the support for the mount. The museum has chosen Small Corp's powder-coated aluminum frames to complete the mount system. The first batch of eight flags will undergo this process through mid to late April, before being shipped back in early May by US Art of Randolph, MA.
The Nazi flag will receive a different treatment due to its large size. A future blog will highlight this highly-technical process. We hope you're looking forward to seeing more of these flags as much as we're looking forward to working on them.
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