The American flag — what symbol is more visible, more a part of our daily lives? Flags of all sizes flutter above us in the breeze, images of the flag adorn signs of all kinds and even appear on commercial products, and flags hang solemnly in our public buildings. How often do we stop to think about what the American flag means to us? Have we ever noticed that its personal meaning may change throughout the course of our lives?
If we started to list all the changes the twentieth century brought to America, we might still be scribbling hours later. If our nation has undergone immeasurable change over the last century, what impact has that had on our understanding of that ultimate national symbol, the American flag? Scot Guenter, professor of American Studies at San Jose State University, will guide us on an exploration of just that question. He will join us on Saturday, May 14, at 2 PM, to speak about "Contested Meanings of the Twentieth-Century Flag: Sacred Symbol, Symbolic Speech." His talk will explore how the increasing civic use of our flag during the first half of the 1900s contrasted with Americans’ varying interpretations of the flag during the century’s later decades. In other words, he will tell the story of how our flag gained symbolic power and its meaning became a bone of contention among Americans engaging in the great public debates of the twentieth century.
Professor Guenter comes to us with a deep understanding of American culture and its symbols. He has taught a dizzying array of topics in twentieth-century American history. As if this weren't enough, he is also one of the world's leading vexillologists. His expertise in the study of flags has earned him two of the highest awards in the field and his consulting services have been called upon by the Smithsonian Institution. We sincerely hope that you will join us in welcoming Professor Guenter for what promises to be a fascinating and engaging afternoon. This free public lecture, sponsored by Ruby W. Linn, is part of new series celebrating the National Heritage Museum’s treasured 15-star flag.
Please call the Museum at 781-861-6559 if you have questions about this public program. For families with children who would like to learn more about our flag, please consider joining us on the afternoon of Saturday, June 11 for an opportunity to "Get to Know Our Flag." For school and Scout groups, the Museum also offers an educational flag program, "From Union Jack to Old Glory."
15-Star Flag, 1794-1818. National Heritage Museum, gift of John E. Craver, 95.021. Photo by David Bohl.
Photo courtesy of Scot Guenter.