After the latest $350,000 proposal to exhibit the last Confederate battle flag flown on the Statehouse grounds was not included in the final state budget, a Columbia museum says it will abandon the idea of a separate room and just display the flag on a wall.
Confederate Relic Room & Museum director Allen Roberson said the flag has spent the past three years in storage as the museum tried to find a place for it. Legislators rejected an initial $3.2 million plan to expand the museum to house the flag and other artifacts in 2016. The $350,000 proposal was included in the state House and Senate budgets separately, but did not make it to the final version sent to Gov. Henry McMaster this summer.
The flag was removed from the Statehouse grounds in 2015, weeks after a white supremacist murdered nine black parishioners at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. As part of an agreement to end procedural delays by flag supporters, legislators agreed to include language in the final resolution which would require the flag be turned over to the Relic Room for public display.
“The legislation said it should be given to us and exhibited in an appropriate manner,” Roberson told South Carolina Radio Network. “And that’s what the legislation says, period. So that’s what we’re going to do.”
The Charleston Post & Courier first reported the museum’s decision. Roberson was scheduled to brief the museum’s legislative-appointed board on Thursday, but the meeting was scrubbed due to a lack of quorum.
Roberson said museum staff had hoped to house the flag in a separate area since their other artifacts are military-related. He said the museum has little remaining space in its current layout.
“We are really tight on space here,” he said. “And I’ve looked at at least 15 different places in our gallery where we could possibly display that flag. Every time I do, something comes up and it doesn’t work.”
The commission voted 5-1 in February to approve the $350,00 display plan, with the condition that commissioners prefer it be housed at the State Museum. The proposal would renovate two offices at the Columbia museum to create a display area set apart from the rest of the military museum’s collections. The Confederate Relic Room and the State Museum are located in the same building. However, the legislature did not ultimately include the plan in its final budget.