Flag of Remembrance: Conservation and Installation

Flag of Remembrance: Conservation and Installation

Mindy Kombert and Sherry Kronenfeld, "Flag of Remembrance," installed at 9/11 Memorial & Museum. Photo by Jin Lee, 9/11 Memorial.

The "Flag of Remembrance," the 20-foot-by-27-foot tour de force created by Mindy Kombert and Sherry Kronenfeld in tribute to the victims of September 11, is now on display at the 9/11 Memorial & Museum for the first time. Watch a time-lapse of the installation below.

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This monumental work was unfurled with great skill and precision during a night at the Museum by a team of art handlers from Crozier Fine Art. Its graceful display reveals many things — foremost, the thousands of individually stitched-together pieces of fabric portray, within the framework of the American Flag, portraits (or memorial candles when a photograph could not be obtained) for each of the victims from the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the four hijacked planes. The blue field with white stars depicts uniformed first responders, and the red and white stripes, civilians.

Mindy Kombert and Sherry Kronenfeld, "Flag of Remembrance," detail. Photo by Jin Lee, 9/11 Memorial.

Mindy Kombert and Sherry Kronenfeld, "Flag of Remembrance," detail. Photo by Jin Lee, 9/11 Memorial.

What the graphic memorial does not reveal is all the careful planning and work that went on behind the scenes in preparation for its installation. Before it came to the museum, the "Flag of Remembrance" (because of its size) was kept folded under one of the creator’s beds in Chappaqua, N.Y. Due to it being stored in this manner, conservation was needed to address the impressions left in the material from the way it was folded. The work was transported from Chappaqua to the Museum’s conservation facility in Jersey City, N.J., where contract conservators Valerie Soll and Lisa Kelman, among other things, meticulously humidified and then flattened each crease they could access.

Lisa Kelman locally humidifying a crease. Photo by Maureen Merrigan.

Lisa Kelman locally humidifying a crease. Photo by Maureen Merrigan.

Because the flag was bigger than the workspace, it could not be fully treated there, and so part of the project would have to be completed just before installation. The conservators also prepared it for display by sewing a thin strip of Velcro to the back of the flag’s top edge, which would secure it to a mount designed by Beth Brideau and Amy Haskins of Object Mounts. Once the Velcro was secured, the flag was carefully rolled onto a soft tube to facilitate transport and to ensure that Soll and Kelman’s treatment of the creases would not be undone.

Valerie Soll and Lisa Kelman rolling the flag onto a soft tube. Photo by Maureen Merrigan.

Valerie Soll and Lisa Kelman rolling the flag onto a soft tube. Photo by Maureen Merrigan.

On the night of June 29, 2017, an eight-member team from Crozier Fine Art, three conservators and several other museum staff members convened to install the work. First, the flag, which was brought to the museum from storage the day before, was fully unrolled in the gallery for the first time. The humidification and flattening was then completed.

Valerie Soll and Lisa Conte in the gallery humidifying and flattening creases. Photo by Jin Lee, 9/11 Memorial.

Valerie Soll and Lisa Conte in the gallery humidifying and flattening creases. Photo by Jin Lee, 9/11 Memorial.

Meanwhile, a scaffolding was constructed so there could be technicians staged at strategic positions while the 27-foot-tall flag was raised and lowered.

Construction of scaffolding. Photo by Lisa Conte.

Construction of scaffolding. Photo by Lisa Conte.

But before the flag could be lifted for its New York City debut, it had to be rolled up one last time on a tube especially fabricated for it by Crozier. 

Installation team rolling up flag. Photo by Jin Lee, 9/11 Memorial.

Installation team rolling up flag. Photo by Jin Lee, 9/11 Memorial.

Then, after much rehearsal, the flag was placed on scissor lifts, mounted and slowly unveiled. The highlights of this herculean effort can be seen in the time-lapse video above. 

By Lisa Conte, Head of Conservation Services, 9/11 Memorial Museum