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In the Military: Flags, other artifacts showcase New York’s rich military history

Thursday, January 5, 2012
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Chris Slater, left, and Josh Risler look over the history of the U.S. combat uniform at an exhibit, "A Call Not Unheeded: The Empire State in Times of Conflict," at the state Capitol in Albany that features artifacts and supporting text from the American Revolution to the present-day War on Terror.
Chris Slater, left, and Josh Risler look over the history of the U.S. combat uniform at an exhibit, "A Call Not Unheeded: The Empire State in Times of Conflict," at the state Capitol in Albany that features artifacts and supporting text from the American Revolution to the present-day War on Terror.

— A flank marker used during the Civil War by a Saratoga County regiment came out of storage for a grand unveiling Wednesday.

The 77th Infantry Regiment, or Bemis Heights Regiment, was organized at Saratoga Springs in 1861, and more than 150 years later one of its artifacts was prepared for display by Saratoga museum curators.

In fact, a large portion of New York’s military history is now featured at the state Capitol, thanks to work done by curators of the New York State Military Museum in Saratoga Springs, and other state history officials.

“It’s important for us to get the collection out to the public, and this was just a wonderful opportunity to do that,” said Michael Aikey, manager of the NYS Military Museum. “New York’s military history is a really rich one, and our citizen soldiers were heavily involved.”

Titled “A Call Not Unheeded,” a line by former state Gov. Horatio Seymour, the exhibit includes about 600 military flags on display in the Capitol’s Flag Room. They had previously been kept in storage at the Capitol in old oak cases, and Aikey said the governor asked the Saratoga-based museum for help in telling their story.

It’s one of several old stories being pulled from storage for public telling in a newly restored Capitol. Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday the completion of major restoration projects at the building, as well as the installation of exhibits with many artifacts that never saw a display case.

The Capitol restoration project was heralded Wednesday before Cuomo’s State of the State address, and Aikey was on hand to take part in the celebration.

“The curtains were down at 11 this morning,” he said Wednesday. “And many people will be coming through here. It’s a great opportunity for us to show the state’s military history to a broader audience and this is a terrific venue down here.”

Along with the battle flags, the Saratoga museum curators prepared about 15 text panels that provide an overview of New York’s military history, some of which harken back to the American Revolution, the War of 1812, and the two World Wars, among others. There are also five artifact cases and a panel relaying the history of the NYS Military Museum, which started in 1863 during the Civil War.

Other Capitol renovations that now feature military exhibits include a showcase in the War Room that displays a bronze cannon dating back to 1630, an eight-flag display from the New York State Battle Flag Collection in the East Entrance Lobby, and copy of the General Association of 1775, a statement of revolution signed one year before the Declaration of Independence, that is now located in the Hall of Governors.

To have its work featured alongside so many other historic military exhibits is a great opportunity for the NYS Military Museum in Saratoga, said Aikey.

“It was really fun to do, and it’s just nice to see the collection out and available to the public,” he said. “And that’s not always possible.”

 
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