From sharing Leonardo da Vinci’s fascination with human flight to exploring whether humans might live on other planets, from teaching a preschooler how a propeller works to generating broadcasts and webcasts onto screens across America, we advanced our mission in broad, new ways in 2013. Guided by the words “commemorate, educate, and inspire,” we brought millions of people of all ages together, in our buildings and beyond our walls, through exhibitions and activities based on our research in aviation, space history, and planetary studies.
In 2013, we opened three new exhibitions in our Washington, DC building and continued to add artifacts to Udvar-Hazy Center’s Boeing Aviation Hangar and the James S. McDonnell Space Hangar. The Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar began developing its own following as visitors watched progress on the restoration of the Curtiss Helldiver, the first aircraft to be restored in the new facility. Program attendance also increased in 2013. Established activities, such as the John H. Glenn Lecture, now in its 10th year, and special programs, like “The CIA’s Underwater Space Mission Revealed: Recovering a Secret Spy Satellite Capsule,” drew capacity crowds to both buildings. Overall, onsite attendance was higher than 2012, and our status as the most visited museum in the country remains unchallenged.
Digital technology enables us to reach more and more people every year, especially because we continue to develop outreach content. Two Reddit “Ask Me Anything” sessions put curators from Space History and Aeronautics directly in touch with online participants who were curious about America’s early space program, and who wanted to know more about Orville and Wilbur Wright on the 110th anniversary of their flight. Hundreds of students in Texas enjoyed a virtual tour of the Vertical Flight display at the Udvar-Hazy Center through a new interactive videoconference program. And children interested in planets and stars can now speak directly to researchers in the Center for Earth and Planetary Studies, the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, as well as universities and other research facilities. The program is just one of several astronomy activities offered through the Phoebe Waterman Haas Public Observatory, which benefitted from a $6 million donation from the Thomas W. Haas Foundation, the largest donation ever given to the Museum for science education programming.
This year’s annual report highlights these and many other activities, all of which succeeded despite budget limitations and a 16-day government shutdown. Contributions from individuals, organizations, and corporations made them possible. Without our members and the donors listed on these pages, we would not be able to commemorate the history of flight and educate and inspire millions of people of all ages.
J. R. Dailey