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Snipping of Original Star-Spangled Banner and Sept. 11 American Flag Recovered from World Trade Center Displayed at the New McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum

Leilani Sweeney

Chicago (May 22, 2006)

What does the flag stand for? What does it mean to you? For Which it Stands, a new exhibition presented by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, explores the symbolism and meaning of our most prominent national symbol – the American flag. The exhibition opens at the McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum in Chicago on May 26 and runs through Nov. 13.

The Stars and Stripes have meant many things to Americans at different times in our nation’s history. For Which it Stands reveals ways individuals have used the flag, both in celebration and protest, to express their own ideas about what it means to be American. While opening up new questions about what the flag meant to Americans in the past, the show also encourages visitors to think about what the flag means to them today.

For Which it Stands features compelling collections and supporting images from the National Museum of American History. Artifacts to be exhibited include fragments from the Star-Spangled Banner - the flag that inspired our national anthem, an American flag made from a captured Nazi flag by a World War II G.I. and an American flag recovered from the rubble of the World Trade Center after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

"While the American flag ultimately symbolizes the ideals of freedom in this country, For Which it Stands allows visitors to explore the flag’s symbolism from various perspectives, such as immigrants, African Americans and protestors," said Joseph Madeira, director of exhibits and programs, McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum. "Adding artifacts like fragments of the original Star-Spangled Banner reveal how a piece of fabric can unite a country or even divide it."


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A Piece of History

In the 1800s, souvenirs, or relics, of important events and people in American history became highly prized and collectible objects. Pieces of historic flags such as the Star-Spangled Banner were especially cherished. The Armistead family, who had acquired the Star-Spangled Banner, received frequent requests for pieces of the flag, but reserved the treasured fragments for veterans, government officials, and other honored citizens. Requests for snippings overwhelmed the family and eventually more than 200 square feet of the Star-Spangled Banner were given away, including one of the stars.

The citizens who received these mementos treated them with reverence and pride. Some framed and displayed these pieces of history in their homes; others donated them to museums. Today, the National Museum of American History has 13 Star-Spangled Banner fragments in its collections. Since conservators and curators cannot be sure from which part of the flag these fragments were taken, the pieces cannot be integrated back into the flag.

The exhibition also touches upon the ongoing debate of flag burning. While some fight to protect the flag from attack and others see it as protecting free speech, the display provides visitors an historical perspective of this controversial issue that’s still being challenged and discussed on Capitol Hill today.

For Which it Stands is part of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History’s landmark Star-Spangled Banner Project and is currently being developed into a major exhibition. The Freedom Museum is the first museum in the country to host this special preview of this exhibition. Funding for this preview exhibition was provided by the McCormick Tribune Foundation. The Star-Spangled Banner Project is supported by Polo Ralph Lauren.

"As the home of the Star-Spangled Banner, the National Museum of American History has been entrusted to be the steward of this important flag and its history," said Brent D. Glass, director, National Museum of American History. "We are pleased to be able to bring snippings from the Banner together with an intriguing look at the American flag in American life to a Chicago audience."

The McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum is located at 445 N. Michigan Ave. in Chicago’s Tribune Tower. Hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day of the week, except Tuesdays and select holidays. Final tickets will be sold at 5:30 p.m. Admission is $5. Children five and under and active military with ID are free. For more information, visit www.FreedomMuseum.US.


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About the National Museum of American History

The National Museum of American History collects, preserves and displays American heritage through exhibitions and public programs about social, political, cultural, scientific and military history. Documenting the American experience from Colonial times to the present, the museum looks at growth and change in the United States. The museum, located at 14th Street and Constitution Avenue N.W., is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., except Dec. 25. Admission is free. For more information, visit the museum’s Web site at www.americanhistory.si.edu or call 202.633.1000, 202.357.1729 (TTY).

About the McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum

The McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum (www.FreedomMuseum.US) inspires generations to better understand, value and protect freedom. Through interactive exploration, visitors gain a greater understanding of the struggle for freedom in the United States and the role the First Amendment plays in society. The McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum is part of the McCormick Tribune Foundation team, which also includes the Robert R. McCormick Museum, Cantigny Park and Golf, the Cantigny First Division Foundation and five grant making programs.

A focus on children, communities and country binds the Foundation and its many parts and keeps us true to our mission of advancing the ideals of a free and democratic society. To learn more, please visit www.McCormickTribune.org.