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Flag Information Protocol (FIP)

Proposed Vexillological Archival System

Last modified: 2007-02-10 by phil nelson
Keywords: flag information protocol | archival standards (proposed) |
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During a museum search for flags used during the Anglo-Boer War by the Boer forces for a book on the history of South African flags, I found some two dozen flags not previously described. This was a very gratifying discovery, but there was one great lack. The information recorded about these flags in the acquisition registers of the various museums examined, was tantalizingly incomplete in most cases. This dearth of recorded detail about these flags was most frustrating. It forced me then to consider what the details should be that we would like to know about any flag ? in particular or for a genre. My consideration of this question resulted in the proposed Flag Identification Protocol described below.

Purpose of the Protocol

The purpose of this Flag Identification Protocol (FIP) is to standardize the data capture methodology for flags, both particular and general, for the purposes of study and analysis. The adoption of this protocol will introduce strict mental discipline into this facet of the research on flags. Without reliable data, none of the four basic tenets of the scientific method, (observation, analyses, hypothesis and prediction ? much simplified), whether inductive, deductive or hypothetic-deductive, would be possible. I am convinced that the general use of a standardized protocol, would be welcomed by most users and archivists of flag information such as the ?Flags of the World? (FOTW) Internet website and museums worldwide.

Scope of the Protocol

It is proposed that there are four main areas of interest or subsidiary formats when capturing data about flags:

- Registration;
- Description;
- Creation/manufacturing; and
- History.

Registration Format

- Title: official country, region, state, province, city, municipality, personal, or
- Organisation, identification name of flag, as well as nick name if any (e.g. national flag of the USA, Stars and Stripes or Old Glory; national flag of the former ZAR, Vierkleur; National flag of France, Tricoleur; etc.).
- Institution/Depositary: name of institution or official depositary where artifact is held.
- Reference number: number under which artifact can be identified such as museum acquisition or register number, etc.
- Location: storage location of the artifact in the institution or depositary (if applicable).
- Method of acquisition: whether the artifact is held on temporary or permanent loan, or has been purchased by the institution/depositary, or has been donated.
- Acquisition date: record date when the artifact came into possession of institution or depositary
- Donator: name, address and other relevant personal details of person or organisation that donated the artifact.
- Value: what is the estimated monetary value of the artifact or its purchase price, if purchased?
- Private ownership: name, address and other relevant personal details of person, or organisation, or group holding artifact, if in private hands.
- Date of private acquisition: when did it come into the possession of the current holder if it is in private hands?
- Method of private acquisition: how did it come into holder's possession?
- Private location: where is the flag/artifact now? (At date of data capture).

Description Format.

- Vexillological description: original heraldic blazon, or official description as defined by law or regulation, if extant, or general description by the data recorder.
- Type or genre of flag: national flag (country or national entity), municipal or state or provincial flag, signal flag, regimental colour, heraldic banner, house flag, religious flag, sports flag etc, etc.
- Shape: square, rectangular, pennant, burgee, banner, gonfalon etc.
- Field: mono-coloured, triband, tricolour, bicolour, barry, paly, lozengy etc
- Colours of the field: black (sable), white (argent), yellow (or), green (vert), blue (azure), red (gules), purple (purpure), brown (brunátre), orange (tenné) and how arranged on the field or in what order they appear.
- Furs: does the field consist or contain any type of fur such as ermine, ermines, vair, potent, etc.
- Divisions: How is the field divided? - straight, wavy, serrated etc. lines.
- Charges on the field: describe any charges appearing on the field in detail using the same format, as applicable.
- Lettering on the field: describe any lettering appearing on the field with the meaning.
- Dimensions: the breadth and length of the flag in millimeters, inches/feet or breadths, as appropriate and standard at the era of the flag. (Where the original dimensions are given in non-metric measurements, the metric equivalents should be included if possible).
- Proportions: the officially specified proportions of breadth to length of the flag.
- Different obverse and reverse: if the two sides of the flag should differ, describe the obverse and reverse separately according to the same format.
- Features: any special features - heading, head stick, grommets, fringe, finials, cravat, etc.
- Hoisting method by halyard: hoist line, Inglefield clips, eye and toggle.
- Securing method on carry pole: ribbons, sleeve, laced, etc.
- Display mode: Normally hoisted outdoors on mast, pole; or indoors on pole by sleeve, hanging from cross bar etc.
- Usage: normally used on land, or at sea, or both.
- Illustrations: provide photographic of sketched illustrations of the flag. (Both sides if the sides differ).
- Anthems and songs: if an anthem or song for the flag exists, record this with the accompanying music, in the original as well as English translation if available.

Note: This format might seem repetitive, but makes provision for the likelihood that this information will most often be recorded by persons not well versed in the methodology and nomenclature of the professional vexillologist or heraldist

Creation or Manufacturing Information Format

- Material: bunting, wool, cotton, linen, silk, synthetic etc, or any combination of these.
- Heading material: canvas, heavy bunting etc.
- Yarn: what type and colour of yarn was used for stitching.
- Colour application: printed, dyed, painted etc., separately for obverse and reverse if different.
- Colour specification: if specified, Pantone, BCC, Cable, or any other standard colour specification if extant, or FIAV standard.
- Charge application: appliqued‚, stitched, glued etc., separately for obverse and reverse if different.
- Weave: if applicable.
- Origin of materials: geographic, manufacturer.
- Method of manufacture: machine cut and sewed or hand made, woven etc.

History Format

- Origin of the flag: When, where, who by, who for, and why was the flag made?
- Use of the flag: When and where was the flag taken into use? How was it used? How long was it in use?
- Legal status: Is the flag's status governed by law? Provide adoption and implementation details of the acts, or laws, or regulations concerned. What is the flag's current legal status? Are there legal prescriptions, protocols or regulations for the use of the flag and what are they?
- Traditions: Written and unwritten traditions governing the use of the flag in the absence of or in addition to legal prescriptions.
- Preservation: How was the flag preserved? Describe the progression of the flag through the hands of different owners to its current holder, if known. What is its present physical condition? Describe tears, holes, stains, or other damage to the flag and how these came about, if known. What measures, if any, have been taken for the preservation and protection of the flag against accidental or deliberate physical, chemical, or fire damage, or attack by insects, or natural ageing?
- History of the flag: Record the complete socio-political history of the flag.
- Events: Record any particular events where the flag played a prominent role.


This protocol is generalized and can be used for the capture of data about a particular flag as well as a class or genre of flags. It is also completely flexible: Those items not applicable or known can simply be left out. Conversely, if elements not covered in this protocol is discovered or noted, they may simply be added to the applicable subsidiary format. Apart from serving as a standard methodology for data capture, the protocol will also serve as a guideline for further research about the subject of the protocol, i.e. to find any information not immediately available, and therefore of necessity left blank in the FIP, about a flag or genre of flags.

This protocol can of course also be cast into tabular format if so desired by the users.

This Flag Identification Protocol was devised by André Burgers during March/April/May 2003 with valued inputs received from Dr Peter Orenski and Phil Nelson of the USA, Željko Heimer of Croatia, Wieke van Delen of the SA Cultural History Museum in Cape Town and Miss Marion George of the SA Archives, Cape Town Depot, South Africa. It is offered free, gratis and for nothing to anyone who might find it useful as a standard methodology for the capture flag data.
Rear-Admiral (Junior Grade) Andries P. Burgers, SA Navy (Rtd), 7 May 2003