Byline: Associated Press
COLUMBUS, Ohio The Civil War flag that was brandished by the 42nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry is wrapped tightly around its pole. Its a delicate task to unfurl the nearly 150-year-old banner without it crumbling like a potato chip.
Yet the humidity-raising chamber used to loosen the material consists of a homemade aluminum frame covered with a plasticlike film. It was built with parts purchased at a home-improvement store for less than $500. The work is being done in a warehouse and in a homemade chamber instead of with the latest, modern equipment, which could cost as much as $20,000.
With the recession tightening its grip, budgets being cut and donors drying up, preservationists are scaling back on restorations.
In Missouri, efforts to buy well-known works by home-state artists have been cut back. A fundraising campaign to help preserve American Indian art in Montana is grinding to a standstill.
Money still is being given for conservation but not at the levels that are necessary, said Eryl Wentworth, executive director of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic & Artistic Works.
"Its so distressing to me because its shortsighted," she said. "We lose our history. We lose a portion of our culture, our memory."
Authorities estimate there were 4.8 billion artifacts in U.S. archives, libraries, museums and historical societies, but that one in four institutions built no controls to protect against temperature, humidity and light.
According to a 2005 survey by Heritage Preservation and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, 13.5 million historic objects, 153 million photographs and 4.7 million works of art needed immediate care.
Lawrence Reger, president of Heritage Preservation, said publicity about the survey generated increased support for the care of collections so they are available for future generations.
"Unfortunately, the current recession has all but brought this to a standstill," Reger said.
The Ohio Historical Society is trying to preserve much of the Ohio Adjutant Generals battle flag collection 552 flags carried in five wars. Most earlier preservation was carried out in the 1960s and to date, only 18 flags have been preserved using updated, more costly techniques paid for largely by private funds.
Soldiers who hoisted Civil War flags in battle were fat targets for the enemy.
"Men knew it was very likely they were going to die when they were carrying them," said James Strider, the societys director of historic preservation. "Theyre just precious relics and artifacts. They are also a tremendous preservation challenge."
Historical societies and museums around the country are being squeezed.
A state budget deficit of $4 billion in Illinois cost the Historic Preservation Agency a conservator and curator who were instrumental in prioritizing artifacts that need to be conserved. They include a three-wheeled wood and leather baby buggy that belonged to David Davis, who …