A consultant has proposed a $5.3 million project to create a display and memorial for the Confederate battle flag that was removed from the South Carolina State House grounds this summer.
The plan – which would have to be approved and funded by the state Legislature – would utilize a 4,600-square-foot second-story room in the old textile mill on Gervais Street that houses both the State Museum and the S.C. Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum.
The use of the now-empty Congaree Room, directly above the Relic Room, would increase the size of that small military museum by about one-third and allow curators to also display and interpret authentic Confederate flags and other items now in storage.
Watson Tate Savory Architects Inc. of Columbia, along with British consultant Haley Sharpe Design, offered the first peek at the proposal Thursday morning during a meeting of the new S.C. Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum Commission. The consultants proposed spending $416,000 a year to operate the expanded exhibit, the vast majority of which would be rent paid annually to the S.C. Division of General Services for the new space.
“We realize we have to look at the impact in relation to the budget,” architect Sanders Tate told commission members, after acknowledging that the addition would be expensive but the flag needed to be placed in an appropriate setting.
The five members of the nine-member commission who attended the meeting offered no objections or revisions to the proposal. They will receive a more detailed plan at a meeting to be scheduled later this month. By law they must make a recommendation to the General Assembly by Jan. 1.
The commission was charged with proposing a plan for displaying the flag after lawmakers voted in July to remove it from the State House grounds. The action came after nine parishioners at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston were shot to death during a Bible study in June.
The modern, nylon flag – one of dozens that flew on the grounds through the years – is being stored at the Relic Room, wrapped in acid-free tissue paper in a white, acid-free textile storage box. It rests on a stainless steel storage rack in a locked, alarmed, climate-controlled room in the back of the museum, which also houses the historic stored Confederate flags.
The Confederate flags that were taken from the State House dome and the Senate and House chambers in 2000 are displayed on the second floor of the State Museum.
According to the proposal, the flag from the grounds would be displayed in a case that fronts a wall of electronic tiles that could display the names of all 24,000 Confederate South Carolina troops killed in the Civil War.
Commission member Martha Van Schaick of Spartanburg said displaying the flag with the names of the dead Confederate troops was appropriate. “It should be in a place that is revered,” said Van Schaick, a past national president general of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
The new room would also house other exhibits, including the authentic flags in storage.
“We have some garrison flags that have never been seen,” said museum director Allen Roberson, who received the flag at the State House after it was taken from its pole behind the Confederate Soldier Monument in July.
The plan also calls for the entrance to the museum to be expanded farther into the mill’s soaring atrium, making event space available and allowing for a new, direct stairway to the expansion. The new room would also have classroom and event space.
“This museum needs to be more program-driven,” Roberson said. “And we can use the event and meeting space (to generate) revenue.”