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Star-Spangled Banner gets help from RIT

As one of the nation's leading color scientists, Roy Berns was invited by the Smithsonian National Museum of American History to join the Star-Spangled Banner Preservation Project as a technical advisor.

Berns measured the flag's color properties using a portable reflection spectrophotometer and helped establish a measurement protocol for documenting color changes before and after cleaning. Measurements made by conservators at the Smithsonian during treatment are being used by Berns to simulate the appearance of the entire flag following cleaning.

Berns will use the virtually cleaned flag in his lighting simulation experiments. His goal is to help design lighting that prevents further damage while giving museumgoers the best visual experience.

The flag that inspired Francis Scott Key's famous poem and our national anthem is too delicate for ordinary display. “It's very, very fragile,” Berns says. “People realize that preservation is the most important criterion.”