Confederate battle flags hand-sewn by Concord women in the 1800s will go into storage after The Concord Museum's Civil War exhibit ends in May.
The silk, cotton and wool flags were donated from private collectors and have been in their original framing and glass since. They will be on display in the downtown museum until May 14 when they will be retired from public view and placed into protective storage until the museum's board can raise money to preserve them.
The flags need to be cleaned and professionally mounted in air-tight framing or shelving with glass that reduces or blocks exposure to damaging ultraviolet light.
The museum's board is searching for experts to take on the restoration efforts, said Michael Eury, the executive director of the Historic Cabarrus Association, a nonprofit that preserves Cabarrus County and Concord history and manages the Cabarrus County Veterans Museum in the Historic Cabarrus Courthouse. He estimates at least one of the flags will cost about $25,000 to be revitalized and preserved.
Colors have faded completely on the Cabarrus Guards flag honoring Company A, 20th N.C. troops. Parts of the writing have withered away. A fading United Confederate Veterans banner honors Cabarrus County Camp 1st N.C. Division. The dull and dirty Cabarrus Rangers flag honors Captain (later Brigadier-General) Rufus Barringer's Company F, 1st N.C. Cavalry.
The flags accent other historical relics on display, including dozens of cannonballs, period firearms, a mannequin dressed in military garbs and photos that help document the past.
"I have to say my favorite thought when I walk through the gallery is that someone, at some previous point and time, thought each one of these items was important enough to save and they made a judgment call.
"Each of the items in the Confederate Memorial Hall archives, someone thought - from 1939 and onward - they were worth preserving, and really worth making an effort to save for subsequent generations to see. And I like that. Everything I touch, I know other people have thought about them," said James Summers, the newly hired curator for the museum.
Summers said the flags are not only symbolic, but works of art.
"They're just graphically clean and beautiful," he said. "That's the nature of a flag. A flag is a symbol. A flag distills all kinds of things into an easily digestible symbol or image - and they're just beautiful. I'm just talking about the color on the surface: the blue, the red, the bars. They're just graphically powerful because they're symbols."
John Parker, 66, a Concord native, visits the museum regularly to freshen up on the area's history. He made a special trip to downtown to see the new exhibit.
"Everyone that walks in here can see history," he said. "I like everything: the pictures, the post cards, some of the machinery from Reed's Gold Mine. Come see what Cabarrus County has to offer. There are places all around town where you can go and see history, and they're not only at this museum. We have so much here."