What is Vexillology?

31 July, 2011

A postcard of the Royal Exhibition Building and the Town Hall, Melbourne, 1908
A postcard of the Royal Exhibition Building and the Town Hall, Melbourne, circa 1908 (showing the flags of Australia and the United States of America). The postcard possibly celebrated the visit of the American fleet in 1908.
Source: Museum Victoria

Question: What is Vexillology?

Answer: Vexillology is the scholarly study of flags.

It is not nearly as well known as numismatics (the study of coins and medals), Philately (the study of stamps) or the many other ‘ologies, such as Biology (the study of life), Zoology (the study of animals) or Palaeontology (the study of fossil animals). However, Vexillology is very popular amongst enthusiasts.

Flags have long been used for identification and communication. Whether they represent a nationality or an allegiance (such as to a sporting team or social cause), they have enormous symbolic meaning for many people.

There is a lot to learn about Vexillology, particularly about its terminology: the official name for a flag pole is a “staff”, the edge of the flag closest to the staff is called the “hoist”, and the edge furthest from the staff is called the “fly”.  The “field” is the background colour of the flag and the “charge” is the emblem, design, figure or symbol on the flag. If there is a coat of arms or a heraldic symbol on a flag, it is called a “badge”.

Museum Victoria's Vexillology collection includes a souvenir flag celebrating Moomba in the 1950s, and a Hungarian flag made by the crew of the Johan Van Oldenbarnevelt to celebrate Hungarian National Day in 1957.

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Image Gallery

Museum Victoria staff raising the Aboriginal flag for NAIDOC week 2005. Flag - Melbourne's Moomba Festival, 1950s Hungarian flag made by Julia Toth in a refugee camp in Austria to celebrate the Hungarian National Day. Carry on Dad Australian Flag - Circa 1918 Aboriginal flag flying over the Royal Exhibition Building

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