Hands-on history: Folding a national symbol

Have you ever seen an American flag up close? I don’t mean the kind you can wave at parades. How about an American flag that’s 30 feet tall, 42 feet long and fills up our museum’s Flag Hall? If you’ve answered “no” to either of these questions, come to the museum on a busy summer day and touch a piece of history!

Each June, July and August, visitors and staff fold a replica of the Star-Spangled Banner in the middle of our museum. The original flag was sewn by Mary Pickersgilland is a treasured part of our museum’s collection. It flew over Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore in September 1814 and inspired Francis Scott Key to write the song that became our National Anthem in 1931.

Folding the flag requires a lot of helping hands and enthusiastic voices. Check out the video below to see how it all works!

To learn more, the Star-Spangled Banner exhibition is next to Flag Hall, where you can see the original flag and related objects. You can also meet Mary Pickersgill and learn more about the flag from her perspective by attending Broad Stripes and Bright Stars, a year-round theater program. Take a look at our museum’s Historic Theater calendar to plan your visit and meet her. Hope to see you soon!

Julia Imbriaco is Program Assistant in Education Outreach, Department of Public Programming at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.


Posted in Public Programs