With the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the State House grounds in Columbia, an ugly part of South Carolina history comes to an end. The flag was first raised above the State House not in 1861, for the Civil War, but in 1961, as a protest against the burgeoning Civil Rights Movement; it had flown on government ground ever since.
What's happening to the flag now is a bit puzzling. The flag was removed with a ceremony and much fanfare, and now, according to an announcement, it will "become…part of the collection of the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum." That museum's stated mission, per its website, is "to collect and preserve the military history of" the state.
The museum was started in 1896, by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, and was originally just called the Confederate Relic Room. In 1998, the state of South Carolina assumed operations of the museum and in 2002 the Relic Room moved into the same building as the South Carolina State Museum — which also housed an extensive Civil War exhibit.
"We get to do a very important educational mission for the people of South Carolina and we're proactive about preserving what we can," museum curator Joe Long told WCCB Charlotte.
There are apparently over 150 flags in the museum's collection, 24 of which are on display, and 17 of which are related to the Civil War. That means there are a lot of Confederate battle flags already on display, including the Confederate flags used by different regiments during the Civil War. Here's a sampling of the kind of flags you might expect to see in the museum.
Those flags look very old and of historical value.
Okay, again—old and tattered, clearly historical value is there.
That's the flag of the Tenth South Carolina volunteer regiment, perfectly suitable for a museum dedicated to the military history of South Carolina.
A photo of the gift shop and it's regimental flag ornament collection (including the SC Tenth, pictured above).
Now the State House flag will join these flags in this shrine to Confederate flagdom. Not everyone is convinced; many on Twitter openly wondered why there needed to be a ceremony for the flag's removal, and why it was being taken to a museum instead of, say, a storage closet.
Indeed, the flag has nothing to do with the state's military history; it was initially raised by people who believe that the Confederate cause was just and opposed the Civil Rights Movement; and it is now going to be on display in a military history museum that was started by a group who idealized the pro-slavery side on the Civil War. Perhaps South Carolina should have just seized the opportunity and let the flag's initial removal stand.
David Matthews operates the Wayback Machine on Fusion.net—hop on. Got a tip? Email him: firstname.lastname@example.org