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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