Museum of American history to display flag

By Carl Hartman The Associated Press

WASHINGTON – The American flag that “so proudly we hail’d,” the inspiration for the Star-Spangled Banner, will be the focal point of an $85 million renovation at the National Museum of American History.

It was on Sept. 14, 1814, that Francis Scott Key peered through the smoke surrounding Baltimore’s Fort McHenry after a 25-hour British bombardment and saw the huge American flag was still flying.

The sight inspired Key to write a poem that began:

“O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light,

“What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming.”

Time took a greater toll on the wool and cotton flag measuring 30 by 42 feet than the British bombardment. In 1998, museum officials determined the tattered flag could no longer support its own weight when hung vertically.

The museum will close Sept. 5 and reopen in the summer of 2008 with a new flag room for displaying the historic 15-star banner.

About $45 million will come from federal funds and the rest from private contributions, said Brent D. Glass, director of the museum.

“The survival of this flag for nearly 200 years is a visible testimony to the strength and perseverance of the nation and we hope that it will inspire many more generations in the future,” Glass said.

After a nine-year job of strengthening it, completed last fall, the flag will rest almost horizontally, the end with the blue field and white stars raised about 6 feet higher than the far end.