9/11 Flag to visit Columns Museum


On Saturday, February 12, the famed 9/11 Flag, which has been on a whirlwind tour of the United States over the last several months, will make a stop in Milford. 


On Saturday, February 12, the famed 9/11 Flag, which has been on a whirlwind tour of the United States over the last several months, will make a stop in Milford.  
The 30 x 20 foot tattered flag was found near the World Trade Center shortly after the 9/11 tragedy by a local Shohola resident.  The remains of the tattered flag originally traveled to Greensburg, KS, a town 95 percent destroyed by an EF-5 tornado, on the 9/11 anniversary in 2008.  
“New York Says Thank You” volunteers, along with the residents of Greensburg's senior citizens center stitched this special flag back together using American Flags salvaged from the Greensburg tornado.
In doing so, they literally stitched together our shared stories of tragedy and triumph and created a new and living piece of American History.  The idea then came about to stitch the flag back to its original format, eventually eliminating the patches.
Proposed Lincoln Flag thread
 It was only appropriate that the use of a piece of the famed Lincoln Flag of the Pike County Historical Society be taken into consideration, said Lori Strelecki, Executive Director of the Columns Museum in Milford.
Strelecki mulled over her options while considering such a donation.  "The idea to possibly participate was brought up to me by our Archivist, Charlie Quilici.  He told me about the 9/11 Flag and its historical journey, and the wheels started turning."  Strelecki knew that the first step in this process was to contact the New York Says Thank You Foundation and see if there was any interest.
"I knew the road would be a little rocky given the significance of our artifact, so I wanted to make sure there was an interest before starting down that particular path," said Strelecki.  Upon contacting Jeff Parness of the Foundation, it was determined that the Lincoln Flag would be a much welcomed addition and "even so much as a thread." would be happily incorporated into the 9/11 flag.  It was then that Strelecki approached her Board of Directors with the notion.
Flag bearing Lincoln’s blood
The Lincoln Flag, which is stained with our 16th President's blood, has been a part of the Historical Society's collections since 1954 when it was given to them by the son of Jeannie Gourlay.  Ms. Gourlay was an actress in the production of Our American Cousin, which was the play Lincoln was viewing at Ford's Theater the evening of his assassination.  The flag was taken from the theater by Thomas Gourlay, Jeannie's father and part time stage manager.
It was passed down to her, and she brought it with her to Milford in 1888 when she married and moved here.  She resided on Water Street, along the Sawkill, until her death in 1924.  Her son, Vivian Paul, donated the flag to the Society along with some of her stage costumes and personal items.  The blood stained flag was displayed for many years in The Community House where the Historical Society originally shared space with the library. Upon finding a home of its own in the lovely 1904 neo-classical manse known as The Columns, which was originally built by Dennis McLaughlin as a summer home, the flag received some much needed attention in the ways of preservation and stabilization.  
It was the determination of then President of the Historical Society, Barbara J. Buchanan, that made it possible for the flag to be housed and stabilized in a custom made case, secured on rollers against an acid free lining and positioned so the blood stains are viewable through tempered plexi-glass.  The flag and its case have never been tampered with since this procedure was completed by the Textile Conservation Institute of New York.  
Flag’s case opened
 The proposed participation would require the case to be opened- a challenge Strelecki knew would be her first in this task. "I contacted the Preservation Institute and spoke to Patsy Orlofsky who was involved in the stabilization back in the early 1980's."
It was established that the case was not air tight sealed in any way, and what had been done to the flag was more of a stabilization effort, rather than a restoration and preservation.  This brought about concerns regarding the condition of the flag.  Was it housed in the best way possible?  Have the years taken a toll?  And was there any further deterioration that should be noted and addressed?  These questions, and the revelation that the flag's case was not "sealed", caused the Board of Directors to become curious as to what might be going on inside of it, and how it may be affecting the prized artifact.  The case was opened in the presence of several Board members and a visual inspection determined that there had been only minimal deterioration, as a few strands had fallen off into the bottom of the case.
The flag seemed to be none the worse for wear, and all archival stitching remained in place securing the heavy item to its muslin backing.  
The flag itself was not touched during the inspection, and, secure in the knowledge that the case was performing as an effective means of stabilization, it was closed back up. "I did grab those few strands that had fallen though," said Strelecki.  "Not much more than a thread, really!"
Those threads will be incorporated into the 9/11 flag.  The New York Says Thank You Foundation is excited about including even the smallest piece of the Lincoln Flag in this dynamic project, said Strelecki.
 A stitching ceremony will be held at The Columns Museum on Lincoln's Birthday, this February.  For more information on the 9/11 Flag visit newyorksaysthankyou.org.
For more information please call (570)296-8126 or visit the Historical Society online at www.pikecountyhistoricalsociety.org.