It’s been two years since the Confederate battle flag was removed from the State House in Columbia, South Carolina, following the brutal murders committed by Dylann Roof in Charleston. The battle flag has been in storage at the Confederate Relic Room & Museum, but at this time there are still no plans for a permanent display.
This brief video explores some of the challenges related to interpreting this particular flag as well as the other wartime battle flags currently on display in the museum.
Eric Emerson, who is the director of the South Carolina Department of Archives and History, explores the long history of the battle flag in Columbia stretching back to the 1930s, as well as the flag that went up in 1962, in an essay for my forthcoming book, Interpreting the Civil War at Museums and Historic Sites. Emerson offers his own thoughts about how this battle flag ought to be interpreted, though he admits that it may be too early.
The book will be available in a couple of weeks. It recently received another positive advance review from Peter Carmichael, who is the director of the Civil War Institute:
Kevin Levin has assembled an impressive cast of practicing public historians whose extensive experience in the field has translated into a series of engaging articles that will appeal to practitioners as well as to students of the Civil War. Each essay asks tough questions about how we communicate with our audiences, and how we might better understand their perspectives in developing new lines of communication with under -represented groups who feel marginalized at military parks and museums. Rather than lament the supposed decline in historical interest in America as is the party-line of cynics today, the authors in this volume offer powerful examples of dynamic exchanges with the public, digging deep into the conversations taking place at Civil War sites, revealing the challenges of interpretation, and pressing us to be more creative and collaborative with our audiences and our colleagues without losing sight of the practical realities in helping the American people think historically about the past.
You can still pre-order the book directly from the publisher with a 30% discount. Use the code: RLFANDF30 at checkout.