When storing a flag or any large textile, the safest method is to avoid folding it and creating creases in the fabric that add stress and can damage those fibers. Storing the flag rolled on an archival-quality storage tube condenses the size of the item for more convenient storage without folding or creasing it.
If you have a memorial or burial flag that was specially folded by a member of the armed services, you'll want to preserve that as it was presented to you. We have a range of products for safely storing or displaying folded flags while protecting them from damage.
As with any guide – these are just suggestions. If you believe you have artifacts or objects of historical value or works of art – consult a conservator before you do anything. You can locate a conservator near you by using the AIC’s Find a Conservator tool.
To preserve your flag you'll want to make sure anything that comes into contact with the flag is archival-quality. This means the materials are acid- and lignin-free, as well as pH neutral. We also recommend using unbuffered tissue for wrapping and interleaving your flag, as the fabric, thread or dyes may contain animal protein.
You'll need the following materials to safely preserve your flag:
If your flag is visibly dirty or soiled, depending on the condition of the flag, you may want to consider cleaning the flag prior to storing it. You'll want to choose a gentle cleaning method that won’t leave behind any residue that could cause yellowing or other discoloration. We recommend using an extra gentle cleanser, such as Orvus WA Paste, specifically made for cleaning delicate textiles of historic value. Gently handwash the flag, thoroughly rinse it and lay it flat to dry. If you prefer to let someone else do the cleaning, you can use a reputable dry cleaner. If you have a very delicate or historically important flag, we recommend you contact a conservator in your area for guidance.
It's best to store any item you want to preserve in a place that is dry and cool and where the temperature and humidity don't fluctuate much. You'll want to avoid areas such as unfinished basements, attics or garages. It's ideal to store the box flat on the ground, not upright, to minimize stress on the fabric.