Soldiers and Sailors National Military Museum and Memorial

Soldiers and Sailors National Military Museum and Memorial in Pittsburgh maintains a collection of military artifacts from the Civil War up to Operation Iraqi Freedom. The museum strives to provide a rich learning experience for all people by exploring the deeds and sacrifices of ordinary citizens during extraordinary circumstances.

Until 2000, the collections were owned by Allegheny County and suffered from storage in an improper environment and lack of attention by trained professionals. As a result, many artifacts have been lost or are in danger of being lost. Since the museum’s incorporation as a non-profit in 2000, the staff has been working to correct past neglect.

In the gravest danger is the flag collection, which includes Civil War regiment flags, Grand Army of the Republic post flags, a banner from the rallies at Nuremberg, the personal flags of General Ridgeway, North Vietnamese flags, and captured Iraqi flags. The older flags, especially those on silk, are in a state of decay.

To provide conservation treatment for this collection extends beyond the museum’s financial means, with treatment and proper housing of each item costing between $5,000 and $15,000. Time is of the essence in the care of these collections—this silk Civil War regiment flag, photographed completely intact only 20 years ago, is now almost completely disintegrated.