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Behind the Scenes: Conservation of a 1916 flag

How we conserve fragments of a 1916 Flag

The National Archives’ building stands on the site of the former Jacob’s biscuit factory, a Dublin institution from the 1850s. The original factory survived the 1916 Rising, but was destroyed by fire in 1987.

During the rebellion of Easter Week 1916, the factory was occupied by a republican garrison. The factory survived the Rising relatively unscathed, as it was not shelled by Crown forces due mainly to its location within a densely populated area. The decision by the rebels to disclose the location of several bombs, to enable them to be disabled, also helped to preserve the building.

NAI, BRS/2005/168

A letter from Thomas A Grehan, employee of the Evening Herald, to a friend, Mr. Curtin, enclosing a fragment of the “Sinn Féin flag that floated over Jacob’s Biscuit Factory during the Rebellion of Easter Week last year.” The flag appears to have been cut up by Mr Grehan and distributed to various favoured individuals in November 1917.

Conservation of the flag fragment

The green, cream and gold/yellow fragments measure approximately 12cm in length and 3cm in diameter. The fragment was attached to a letter from Thomas A Grehan using a staple. This left puncture marks, and iron oxide staining had become visible on all three pieces of fabric.

Conservation work involved dry cleaning and using a smoke sponge to remove surface and ingrained soiling. The fragments were humidified to remove creases and distortions. They were then hand-stitched to a museum standard handmade padded board using Skala thread.

The work was carried out under the terms of the National Monuments Act, Licence No. 5969 by textile conservator Rachel Phelan AICRI.

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