COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The last Confederate flag to fly at the South Carolina Statehouse has quietly been put on display at a museum, ending a three-year saga over what to do with the rebel banner, which was removed after nine black church members were killed in a racist attack on a Charleston church.
On Nov. 26, Confederate Relic Room staff put the nylon flag into a $1,400 viewing case that hangs between two offices amid a display of other historical South Carolina flags, museum Executive Director Allen Roberson said after a budget presentation to lawmakers on Tuesday.
“I’m sure we won’t satisfy everybody. But it is up,” Robeson said.
The display of the flag itself was a political compromise, hurriedly reached in the wee hours of the morning when it appeared removing the banner from the Statehouse was going to fall a few votes short. The agreement that lawmakers approved called for “appropriate, permanent and public display” of the flag, the last to fly at the Capitol near a monument to Confederate soldiers.
On July 10, 2015, a special team of state troopers in dress uniforms pulled down the flag, carefully wrapped it in special paper and gave it to Robeson. He carried it to an armored van for the six-block trip to the Confederate Relic Room.
The museum initially proposed a nearly $4 million project that included a massive restoration of its building and a high-tech display including screens displaying pictures or names of Civil War dead.
That idea fell flat and the flag stayed in a small, flat, acid-free box behind several locked doors as Robeson came up with other proposals, including a recent request for $200,000 to renovate the two offices on either side of the flag’s new home.
After last year’s budget passed without the funds in it, Robeson commissioned a special case to fit the flag and protect it from ultraviolet light. Once that was finished, South Carolina’s final Confederate flag found its home quietly.
It’s not the conclusion Robeson wanted. He and others in his museum felt the flag was a political item that didn’t need to be in a military museum.
“The staff feels very strongly it is not a military artifact. It doesn’t need to be stuck on a wall somewhere in a frame,” Robeson said in June 2017. “A lot of these flags have gunpowder, blood, bullet holes — they were what 18- and 19-year-old boys died fighting under. This is not the same thing.”
Attendance at the Confederate Relic Room dropped for a while as the flag controversy swirled. Robeson told lawmakers Thursday that it had finally increased by about 2,000 people in 2018.
Now that the flag is back on permanent display, Robeson has asked for a one-time allocation of $25,000 to increase security, both when the museum is open and after-hours.