Flag conservation

Flag conservation
Textile conservator, Gwen Spicer of Spicer Art Conservation at work

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

How to make a longer storage tube for large textiles, especially oversized flags

Rolled storage is a great method for storing oversized textiles, especially large flags. Rolling is a method that precludes the textile from being folded, therefore eliminating fold lines and areas of weakness caused by folding. Oversized textiles, especially very large flags, require special accommodations so that they may be rolled. Since flags and large textiles come in a wide range of sizes, standardizing a rolled storage system can be challenging. First, there must be enough storage space for a large rolled flag to be housed. The second (and maybe biggest) challenge is that the supplies for rolling very large flags and textiles do not exist, they must be created.

This post is about how to create a custom sized/oversized acid-free tube by adding length.  It is not intended to teach about rolling of textiles, however that information can be found in part three of our previous posts about flag storage: "How to Store Your Flag: Part 3 - Rolling".

While I was doing the survey of a large collection of flags at the State Historical Museum of Iowa we found that the standard 8 foot long tube would not accommodate several of the flags; in fact the longest of the tubes needed for Iowa's collection was 16 feet. So what to do? What follows are images and even a video (above) that explains one method to create a lengthened tube. The process of creating that very long tube is demonstrated by Pete Sixbey, conservator and Kay Coats, collection manager, both of the State Historical Museum of Iowa.

textile conservation of historic battle flags and banners by textile conservator Gwen Spicer of Spicer Art Conservation Albany New York capital region. oversize flag storage rolled archival tube for textiles
Measuring the cut of tube for the extension and the insert.

Spicer Art Conservation, How to create custom archival tubing to support an oversize textile, flag or banner for museum, private and institutional collections using archival materials and built by a professional textile conservator.
Making the cut.

textile conservation of historic flags and banners. creating storage using archival materials and rolled storage methods to eliminate folding and creasing of textiles. war flags, battle flags, civil war revolutionary war war of 1812, world war 1, world war 2, antique flags
On the table saw, slicing out lengthwise a 1" channel. This width
is basically the distance of the thickness of two walls of the tube

Preservation of historic battle flags and banners, textile conservation, rolled storage for large or oversized textiles and flags, preservation, storage, repair, conservation
The cut out channel. This width of the channel is critical
to insure that the  insert is tight inside both halves of the tube.

creating custom rolled storage tubes for the preservation and care of the historic state battle flag collection of the State of Iowa, with textile expert and professional flag conservator Gwen Spicer of Spicer Art Conservation
Now squeezing the insert down to fit inside of the tube.

textile conservator Gwen Spicer works with staff from the State Museum of Iowa to desgn custom made archival tubes to roll the fragile oversized battle flags in the State's collection
A vise-grip and clamp provide pressure on four sides.

Textile Conservator, Gwen Spicer was on-site to assist the State of Iowa with their battle flag collection. Gwen instructed the museum on how to create extended archival tubes to safely store the largest battle flags in a way that allowed them to be free of folds which can be quite damaging to antique materials including silk, cotton or wool flags
Positioning one side of the tube.

Flag conservation, storage, repair, preservation, mounting, presure mounts, display, and collection care by textile conservator Spicer Art Conservation
Fitting the smaller tube inside of the larger. A mallet might be needed. 

Flag conservation, storage, display, mounting, collections, state house historic battle flags and banners, antique textiles repair, preservation, conservation and care.
And now for the other side! Above you can see the sliced tube
fitting inside of two 8 foot tubes, therefore creating a 16 foot tube.

Iowa's larger flags are now rolled using archival materials and can be safely stored until they require conservation treatment or are ready to be prepared for exhibit or mounting.

Happy Flag Day from all of us at Spicer Art Conservation. The preservation and conservation of historic flags and banners is our expertise and it has been out great pleasure to assist institutions, museums, state houses and private collectors with flag collections both great and small.  

Gwen Spicer is a textile conservator in private practice.  Spicer Art Conservation specializes in textile conservation, object conservation, and the conservation of works on paper.  Gwen's innovative treatment and mounting of flags and textiles is unrivaled.   To contact her, please visit her website.


  1. Thanks for sharing this great idea for extending tubes without the use of adhesive.

    My concern is for the health of the staff members: cutting paperboard (or wood products) with a power tool generates a lot of fine, lightweight dust that is easily inhaled. Even if the equipment is connected to a dust collection system, the finest particulates still become airborne. Using a particulate dust mask, or even better, a respirator, will help protect the staff from potential longterm health issues such as asthma. I speak from experience!

    P.S. Hearing protectors are also a good idea. I speak from experience!

  2. Larry, You raise some very important points. Safety should always be a priority, thank you for adding the details of how to make this a safer procedure.