A University of Tennessee scientist is helping search for hidden damage to
the Star-Spangled Banner so it can be restored.
Bill Blass, professor of physics, is part of a five-member team sponsored
by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center that is scanning the flag with a
special NASA camera built originally to study Martian rocks.
Blass said the camera's infrared images can find problems such as excess
moisture and oils in the flag fabric. Though hard to see, they cause the
wool of the flag to deteriorate, he said.
"Many problems have accumulated over years," he said. "They are invisible
to the naked eye and gradually worsen over time. With infrared imaging we
can locate these things much better than you can by just looking at
The images also will locate areas weakened from wear, Blass said.
The Star-Spangled Banner has been at the Smithsonian Institution since
1907. It flew over Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Md., during the War of 1812,
inspiring the U.S. national anthem.
Despite meticulous care, it is deteriorating from decades of exposure to
light, air pollution and temperature fluctuations, Blass said.
After it is scanned, the flag will be moved from its hanging position in
the National Museum of American History for a three-year, multi-million
dollar preservation and restoration project by the Smithsonian Conservation
It will be remounted in a new enclosure designed to prevent new damage from
pollutants, light or temperature fluctuations.
"This flag has been through a lot since being bombarded by the British,"
Blass said. "It's had a rough life. Because it's made of wool, the elements
have been hard on it."
"The closer we look, the more we will be able to help the restoration team
do their special kind of work."
UT scientist helps restore Old Glory
Published: Mon Nov 30, 1998 | Modified: Sat Aug 06, 2005 01:42 p.m.