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Life in our Foothills May 2020-Robert Williamson: The High Flying, Colorful World of a Vexillologist

Written and photographed by Vincent Verrecchio

Before 1961 the term vexillology was nowhere in print, nor were derivatives such as vexillologist and vexillophile. Even though vexillographers worked in ancient Egypt and Assyria, no certain references can be found. “Vexillum” (flag) could be found in Latin and “logia” (study) in Greek, but it wasn’t until Whitney Smith put them together and published the term in “The Flag Bulletin” that it entered the English language as the study of the history, usage, art, and symbology of flags.

“Every flag has a story to tell,” says Robert Williamson, volunteer Curator/Executive Director of the non-profit House of Flags Museum located at 33 Gibson Street in Columbus. As we tour the 5,000 square feet of the former 4-bay fire station, he tells from memory the many histories and legends, romances and political back stories, foibles of Presidents and the epic of the United States told in its vexillography. Walking up and down the switchback aisles, it’s obvious that the vexillographer’s art of designing and producing flags is global. Many flags are beautiful, others crude, some simple, others complex.

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MAY 2020 LIFE