Preserving the Star Spangled Banner
On September 14, 1814, U.S. soldiers at Baltimore’s Fort McHenry raised a huge American flag to celebrate a crucial victory over British forces during the War of 1812. The sight of those “broad stripes and bright stars” inspired Francis Scott Key to write a song that eventually became the United States national anthem. Key’s words gave new significance to a national symbol and started a tradition through which generations of Americans have invested the flag with their own meanings and memories.
A national treasure, the Star-Spangled Banner has been on view almost continuously since it came to the Smithsonian Institution in 1907. Despite receiving the best possible care, the flag, already timeworn, has deteriorated further from decades of exposure to light, pollution and temperature fluctuations.
The Preservation Project