COLUMBIA — Two and a half years after it was furled, the last Confederate flag to fly on Statehouse grounds remains in storage in a state museum, with no plans for when it will go on display there — if ever.
Allen Roberson, director of the Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum in Columbia, said Tuesday he will present a roughly $300,000 plan to his board members next month. But even if they approve the latest plan — pared down from $3.6 million two years ago — Roberson doesn't intend to ask legislators to fund it.
Legislators mandated an exhibit at South Carolina's military history museum, so the decision is theirs to add the money to make it a reality, Roberson said.
Appearing before a House budget-writing panel Tuesday, Roberson sought no additional money for the museum in the fiscal year beginning July 1. He never mentioned the flag, and no one on the four-member, bipartisan panel bothered to ask.
"I'm not going to request for this," he told The Post and Courier after the meeting.
That makes it unlikely any display proposal would end up in the 2018-19 state budget.
"I don't see the Legislature funding something that's not requested," said House Majority Leader Gary Simrill, R-Rock Hill.
Roberson's $300,000 proposal to display the flag involves combining two offices, raising the ceiling and installing glass doors to separate the space from the main gallery.
Roberson has said that, while the vinyl flag is historically significant, it is not a historical artifact and should not be displayed beside flags carried into battle and riddled with bullet holes and blood.
His proposal is largely the same option he suggested to his board last January.
At the time, the board refused to give up on the $3.6 million proposal that incorporated the flag display in a larger expansion and conservation project, despite legislators dismissing that price tag from the outset.
After again getting nowhere with that expansive effort, the museum board directed Roberson last summer to use existing space.
Legislators approved bringing down the rebel flag after five decades on the Statehouse grounds following the massacre of nine black parishioners at Charleston's Emanuel AME Church. The gunman, an avowed white supremacist who was sentenced to death last year, could be seen in photos with the flag.
The Confederate Relic Room, located in the same building as the State Museum, never asked for the flag. The law, signed by then-Gov. Nikki Haley in July 2015, sent it to the 122-year-old public museum, which has artifacts from every war South Carolinians have fought.
A separate measure directed Roberson to estimate costs for the flag's "appropriate, permanent, and public display."
On Tuesday, he said he worked hard to find a way to display the flag without renovation work, but it wouldn't work.
"It wouldn't fit the museum at all," he said. "There is just no space. I have no space, and I cannot emphasize that enough. Everything I look to move disrupts the museum."
Beyond the space issues, there are questions about the displaying the controversial Civil War banner that stirred heated debate when Haley called for its removal in the wake of the church shooting.
"Some people love it. Some people hate it," he said. "Everybody has an opinion no matter where it goes."