Stuhr Museum will soon be able to share a piece of history thanks to a recent discovery.
Kari Stofer, museum curator, said the museum was invited by George Bartenbach to look through the former Bartenbach’s Gallery building and they located a U.S. flag with 38 stars on it. The flag is 8 and a half feet by 16 and a half feet in size.
Stofer said she is not aware of any other places that have a 38-star flag in Nebraska. That flag was only around for about 11 years before more states entered the union and a new flag was made.
“It was very exciting; it is like discovering a treasure,” Stofer said. “We all shared it, talked about it and ran upstairs to find George (Bartenbach). The flag was in a vault room that is further back and under the alley. It was folded and wrapped in brown wrapping paper. It has no sunlight down there and basically, even though it was a damp environment, it stayed that way. There was not a whole lot of anything disturbing it over the years.”
Bartenbach said he never knew he had the flag as it was buried in storage along with paperwork. He added the former Bartenbach’s Gallery building was built in 1883 and that the owners likely did not have the flag any earlier than that.
“I am sure it is something they bought for celebration and flew proudly,” he said.
Stofer said the flag is in fair condition as it has some wear and tear, which should be expected of a flag from the 1880s. She said Stuhr Museum plans to stabilize the flag by cleaning it with a vacuum.
“This is the biggest vacuuming project I have ever been a part of. I would guess it will take a few weeks,” she said. “We have already been in contact with the Ford Conservation Center in Omaha to make sure we are doing it correctly. Then, we will also want to exhibit it and let the public see it. Further down the road, there will be more examination and hopefully we will get it stabilized so it lasts forever.”
Stuhr Museum plans to have the flag on display for the Welcome Home celebration in July. Stofer said the flag will be displayed in the Reynolds Multipurpose Room.
“That will be a one-time viewing thing and will then have whatever it needs done to it done. It is a special window to come out and look at it,” she said. “We are going to maintain the temperature, humidity and access to natural light, so it is going to be indoors in a separate display that will have attendants to watch it. But, it will be in a room, so people can come and get an up-close inspection of it.”