The Rebel Flags Collection has become a touchstone of southern heritage, seen on T-shirts and mugs and even fluttering in the background during performances by Lynyrd Skynyrd. But the symbol of a splinter nation that tore America apart has also been claimed by white supremacists and mythologized as emblem of rebellion against racial justice. The debate over the Confederate flag has heightened as the nation grapples with systemic racism and the Charleston shooting prompted President Trump to announce new steps to ensure civil rights for Black Americans.

Iowa sent a large percentage of its eligible population to fight in the Civil War, and 13,169 of them died. The museum’s exhibits include a spy’s pistol, a bugle, cannon supplies and a sword that was found in the hand of a dead soldier at Shiloh. But it doesn’t include any of the 34 Confederate battle flags it acquired during the war.

Rebel Yell: Dive into the Rebel Flags Collection

Among the flags is one that was a favorite of General PGT Beauregard, the Confederacy’s first military commander. The elongated version of the battle flag (often called the Southern Cross or Stars and Bars) was designed by Beauregard’s assistant, Mary E. Johnston. Johnston wanted to keep the shape of the new flag a secret so it wouldn’t confuse soldiers on the battlefield.

It’s one of 24 rebel flags on display, with nine more conserved and several more waiting to be framed or considered for conservation, Morain said. Currently, Memorial Hall’s long-term Civil War exhibit focuses on Iowans and their experiences before and during the war, so some of the museum’s Confederate items have lower priority for display, he said.