Learn about the history of objects that will be featured in the Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall and the progress of the renovation in these blog posts from the team.
If you visit the Museum in Washington, DC, you may notice a few key objects have been removed from display. The last several weeks have been especially busy for our Collections Processing Unit. More than 15 objects have already been moved as part of the major renovation of the Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall—scheduled to open on the Museum’s 40th Anniversary in 2016. Recently, Sputnik 1, Explorer I, Pioneer 10, Mariner 2, and the Goddard Rockets have all been delicately removed from display and transported offsite to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center for conservation.
Anthony Wallace, a supervisory museum specialist with the Collections Processing Unit, shared some of the logistics involved with moving the Museum’s treasured artifacts. “Moving anything from downtown [Washington, DC] is always complex,” he said.
Hours (upon hours) of work will go into preparing for a single artifact move. From constructing crates and specialized handling gear that accommodate each artifact’s unique measurements to making sure the right equipment will be available. And there’s also coordinating with the Museum’s many departments and staff: curators, conservation, exhibition specialists, security, and photographers among many.
According to Anthony, moving Sputnik 1 and Explorer I were fairly straight forward. For both, the most difficult task was determining how each was installed so that they could be efficiently uninstalled. In total, Anthony estimates it took about four staff hours to remove Sputnik 1 and Explorer I, once they were in the Museum, with another two hours of work to secure the objects for transport. Everything took place before the Museum opened to the public.
Several days later, Pioneer 10 and Mariner 2 were removed. As larger objects, extra steps were required. Pioneer 10, for example, had to be transported in pieces thanks in large part to its 2.7-meter (9-foot) dish. Small parts were removed while the object was still hanging in the gallery. Chain hoists were used to lower the main bus to the ground where it was mounted to a specially built transport pallet.
Finally, the Goddard rockets were removed from display. Two of the rockets were removed in the morning prior to the Museum opening. The largest rocket needed more time and logistics to remove so this work was done in the evening after closing. Due to its vertical position directly beneath the North American X-15, the rocket needed to move out to the center of the gallery so staff could successfully rotate it from the vertical to the horizontal position for transport. The rocket was driven on a forklift and in combination with a chain hoist, the 8-meter (26-foot) tall assembly was rotated into its transport orientation. Visitors familiar with the exhibition space will notice that the Viking Lander now occupies the spot where the Goddard rockets were displayed.
In the next several months, more objects will be on the move—Anthony noted the Lunar Module (LM-2) would pose a particularly interesting challenge. The LM-2 will be moved from the east end of the building, where it has been displayed since 1976, and become a focal point of the newly renovated Hall. Due to the size of the lander, its ascent and descent stages will be separated for the move. Moving the Lunar Module, as with all of our artifacts, will give us the opportunity to get up close to examine, clean, and photograph portions of the object that are not typically accessible.
Curious about what it takes to coordinate a project like this? Ask Anthony and other Milestones team members on the Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall renovation website. You can also follow our progress on Twitter using #MilestonesofFlight.
Jenny Wiley Arena is the digital content manager in the Web & New Media Department of the National Air and Space Museum
Anthony Wallace is a supervisory museum specialist with the Collections Processing Unit at the National Air and Space Museum