Specific Exhibition and Artifact FAQ
Why wasn't the 1903 Wright Flyer put on display at the Smithsonian
A. Answer provided by Tom Crouch, senior curator, Aeronautics
Orville Wright was involved in a major feud with the Smithsonian,
1914-1942, relating to Smithsonian insistence on identifying
the 1903 Langley Aerodrome as the first machine "capable of
flight." It is a long and complex story. In the late 1920s,
unable to get the Smithsonian to pay any attention to his
concerns, Orville sent the world's first airplane to the Science
Museum in London, and vowed that it would not return until
the SI dealt honestly with the issue of priority in the invention
of the airplane. Smithsonian secretary Abbott finally produced an article
that satisfied Orville, and he quietly arranged for the airplane
to come home at the end of WW II. The Science Museum asked
to hold on to it a little longer to produce an accurate replica.
The aircraft was finally unveiled in the rotunda of the Arts & Industries
Building. on December 17, 1948. The details are provided in my
book, The Bishop's Boys: A Life of Wilbur and Orville Wright,
and in Tom D. Crouch, "Capable of Flight: The Saga of the
1903 Wright Airplane," in Amy Henderson, ed., Exhibiting Dilemmas:
Issues of Representation at the Smithsonian (Washington, D.C.:
Smithsonian Institution Press, 1997), pgs. 92-116.
I get detailed drawings of the 1903 Wright Flyer so that I
may build a model?
A. Yes, the Archives Division currently offers a set
of drawings of the Wright 1903 Flyer. See the Drawings
of the 1903 Wright Flyer page for details. You can download
a PDF order form or get information by mail/e-mail.
Q: Can I access information on a specific airplane
or spacecraft online?
A: Yes. The Collections
page provides links to information about Museum objects.
The National Air and Space Museum Collections Database provides information and images for selected aircraft and space artifacts in the Museum's collection. Information on artifacts
can also be found via the Exhibition Galleries page, or consulting the Museum map. You can also use the search
engine to find information on a specific artifact.
If you have a specific question that deals with the history
of an artifact in the collection, you may e-mail a request
for information to the Archives Division using their
online e-mail form.
Requests for specific images to be placed online cannot be
accommodated. The Archives will reply via regular mail.
Where can I see the Star Wars exhibit?
A: The Star Wars: The Magic of Myth
closed on January 31, 1999. The online
version is available indefinitely.
The Star Wars exhibition is traveling the United States.
Please see the Smithsonian
Institution Traveling Exhibition Services Web site for
schedule and information.
Q: Is the Star Trek exhibit on display at the Museum and/or
A: No, the Star Trek exhibit was a traveling
exhibition that has ended its tour. However, the U.S.S.
Enterprise model, used in the filming of the original Star
Trek TV series, is on display in the Museum Store in the National Mall building .
Q: Where are the SR-71 and Space Shuttle Discovery?
A: The Space Shuttle Discovery and SR-71
Blackbird are on display at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center.