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Five historic flags in ‘Seeing Stars’ exhibit moving to other museums

HIGHLANDS — The new “Seeing Stars” exhibit at the Twin Lights Museum has been setting attendance records thanks in large part to the “wow” factor of its historic flags and patriotic artifacts. However, five of those flags will soon be headed to other museums.

The Buffalo Soldier guidon, Grand Union flag, 1860s Free flag, 1818 20-star flag and a souvenir flag sewn by Betsy Ross’ granddaughter are scheduled to be taken down before the end of the month.

“People simply cannot believe we were able to curate this exhibit and find flags of this caliber,” said Mary Jo Kenny, president of the Twin Lights Historical Society. “Unfortunately, these five flags were promised to other museums, so if you haven’t seen them, it’s time to stop at the lighthouse.”

According to Kenny, the good news is that one of the country’s top collectors has stepped up and agreed to fill the void created by the departure of these flags. The transition should be seamless, with the exception of a new Grand Union flag, which may take a week or two to replace. Other pieces, provided to the Twin Lights Museum through its partnership with the Monmouth County Historical Association (MCHA), are scheduled to be rotated out later in the summer. They will be replaced with other MCHA artifacts and pieces from the Twin Lights Museum collection.

The Grand Union flag is regarded as the first national flag of the United States, predating the iconic 13-star flag. It was one of the many historic flags that were reproduced during the centennial celebration in 1876. A commemorative flag much like this one once flew over Independence Hall in Philadelphia during the time.

“The Grand Union flag came to be in 1775, after the Continental Congress ordered the creation of a new flag to distinguish American ships and troops from the British ones,” said Mark Stewart, who co-chairs the museum’s collection committee. “The one on display here is an absolute jaw-dropper. We think we have a good replacement, but if you haven’t seen the one here now it’s absolutely worth a special trip.”

Stewart added that the Buffalo Soldier guidon (a swallow-tailed cavalry flag) is a powerful piece of American history.

“This flag was flown in Texas by one of the all-African-American cavalry regiments during the Indian Wars,” he said. “It’s a story that many people have heard, but actually coming face to face with a rare piece of history like this could literally be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for most of us.”

The Twin Lights National Historic Landmark is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. and 1-4 p.m. The museum’s “Seeing Stars” exhibit will run through 2016. Admission to the North Tower and museum is free. All donations as well as proceeds from the museum store fund new exhibits and special projects. For more information, visit www.twinlightslighthouse.com or call 732-872-1814.

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