EXHIBITION PRESS KIT
PRESS RELEASE OCTOBER 9, 2003
Smithsonian's National Air and
Space Museum Opens Centennial of Flight Exhibition, "The
Wright Brothers & The Invention of the Aerial Age"
The Smithsonian Institution’s
National Air and Space Museum celebrates 100 years of powered
flight with the opening of “The Wright Brothers & The
Invention of the Aerial Age” on Saturday, Oct. 11. The exhibition,
featuring 170 artifacts, provides an engrossing look at the lives
of Wilbur and Orville Wright, their technical achievements and
the cultural impact of their breakthrough in the decade that followed.
The centerpiece of the new exhibition
will be the original 1903 Wright Flyer, displayed at eye level
for the first time since it was acquired by the Smithsonian in
1948. Visitors will have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to study
up close the intricate workings of the world’s first airplane,
which flew only four times—all within a few hours at Kitty
Hawk, N.C., on Dec. 17, 1903.
The exhibition, which will run for
at least two years, reveals how two seemingly ordinary people
accomplished a feat that had eluded others for so long. Wilbur
(1867-1912) and Orville (1871-1948) Wright’s creative process
and inventive method are presented in comprehensive terms that
refute the notion the brothers were simply two bicycle makers
who got lucky. Interactive mechanical models in the gallery offer
visitors unique hands-on examples of the brothers’ design
“The airplane has now defined
our world for 100 years,” says National Air and Space Museum
Director Gen. J.R. “Jack” Dailey. “This exhibition
is a tribute to the unyielding curiosity that made the technical
triumph possible. With this gallery, the Wrights come to life
to provide special inspiration for the next century of innovation.”
“The Wright Brothers &
The Invention of the Aerial Age” is made possible through
the generous support of Alcoa.
Among the artifacts featured in
• school report cards attesting to the brothers’ dedication
• one of only five Wright-built bicycles still in existence
• Wilbur Wright’s 1899 letter to the Smithsonian requesting
publications on aviation
• a Wright wind tunnel test instrument used in unlocking
the secrets of aerodynamics
• the stopwatch used to time the first powered flights
• Orville Wright’s mandolin
• wood and fabric from the 1903 Wright Flyer carried to
the moon in 1969 by Apollo 11
Full-size reproductions of a Wright
experimental kite and two experimental gliders are also displayed.
An array of popular culture artifacts
and artwork helps illustrate how powered flight was received in
the first years after Kitty Hawk. The exhibition explores the
unlimited possibilities aviation represented for public spectacle,
adventure, commerce, warfare and creative expression. Also examined
are the Wright brothers’ sudden massive fame and their direct
influence on fledgling inventors and aviators.
Some artifacts have been loaned
for the exhibition by individuals and organizations in the United
States and Europe, complementing the museum’s renowned collection
of early flight materials.
The gallery’s design, from
lighting fixtures to display cases, conveys a feeling of the Wrights’
era. The barrier that surrounds the 1903 Wright Flyer is inspired
by iron fencing that was at the Wright home in Dayton. Wright-related
sites including their home and bicycle shop were the inspirations
for the gallery’s life-size, three-dimensional facades.
These representations will be used on occasion by actors performing
educational vignettes commissioned for the exhibition through
the theater department of George Washington University.
Other exhibition features produced
by the museum’s Education Unit include live video “field
trips” to the gallery by students in other parts of the
United States; a teaching poster; online lesson plans; special
“Family Day” programs; and staffed “Discovery
Stations,” which provide hands-on explorations of Wright
methods and designs.
A touch-screen computer interactive,
“Riding the Winds,” gives visitors a simulated look
at the 1903 Wright Flyer in flight. Another computer station,
“Inside the Invention,” allows visitors to study the
Flyer through a virtual model of the airplane and detailed photographs
including those of the aircraft disassembled during its 1984-1985
restoration. A Wright-era listening display, “There’s
Music in the Air,” will offer newly made recordings of early
aviation-themed songs from the museum’s vast sheet music
A companion book to “The Wright
Brothers & The Invention of the Aerial Age” has been
published in collaboration with National Geographic.
Additional support for the exhibition
has been provided by: The Alvin, Lottie and Rachel Gray Fund;
Fred and Barbara Telling; SI National Board; Fish & Neave;
The Gayle H. and Peter Bickers Foundation; The Funger Foundation,
Inc., NormaLee and Morton Funger; Daniel Greenberg, Susan Steinhauser
and the Greenberg Foundation; Leighton and Carol Read; and Mr.
and Mrs. B. Francis Saul II.
The National Air and Space Museum
also marks the centennial of powered flight with the Dec. 15 opening
of its companion facility adjacent to Washington Dulles International
Airport in Virginia. The much-anticipated Steven F. Udvar-Hazy
Center will ultimately house the 80 percent of the national collection
not currently displayed at the museum’s flagship building
on the National Mall in Washington or on loan. Artifacts will
include the space shuttle Enterprise, the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird,
the original prototype of the 707 jetliner and the B-29 Superfortress
Enola Gay. The Boeing Aviation Hangar alone at the new center is 10 stories
high and the length of three football fields.
The Air and Space Museum, comprised
of the Udvar-Hazy (pronounced OOD-var HAH-zee) Center and the
building on the Mall, will be the largest air and space museum
complex in the world. The flagship building, with just over 161,000
square feet of exhibition floor space, is the most popular museum
in the world, attracting on average more than 9 million visitors
each year. Attendance at the Udvar-Hazy Center is projected at
some 3 million people a year.
The museum building on the Mall,
located at Sixth Street and Independence Avenue S.W., is open
seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. The museum will open
at 9 a.m. from Monday, May 27, through Monday, Sept. 2. The Museum
is closed Christmas Day. Admission is free.
Brothers Exhibition Press Kit