Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center Planning
Displaying the Smaller Air and Space Artifacts
Visitors will be amazed by the size of the Steven
F. Udvar-Hazy Center and inspired by the many aircraft and spacecraft
displayed in the 984-foot-long Boeing Aviation Hangar and adjacent James S. McDonnell Space Hangar. However, there will be much more than aircraft and spacecraft
to see there.
|Approximately 80 aircraft and 35 spacecraft will
be in their new home. This view looks north from the mid-point
of the aviation hangar.
Visualization by Interface Multimedia
|The development of aerial cameras is shown in this collection
of smaller artifacts in a "storefront" case.
by Carl J. Bobrow, NASM
Smaller objects will also be displayed in a variety
of ways. Most will be in cases built especially for the Center.
Designing and building the cases, along with selecting and arranging
the artifacts, is a task that requires many departments of the National
Air and Space Museum to work together as an efficient team. William
Jacobs, Senior Exhibit Designer and Project Manager for the display
cases and exhibit stations, tells us that the National Air and Space Museum team of 35-40
staff members includes experts from:
- Aeronautics and Space History Divisions –
Curators who are responsible for collecting the artifacts and
preserving the history of aviation and spaceflight. They pick
the themes for the exhibit stations and cases, select the artifacts,
and write the labels.
- Preservation & Restoration Unit – Technicians
who restore, repair, clean, and preserve the artifacts.
- Exhibits Design Division – Designers who
decide how exhibits should look to give museum goers access, pleasure,
and knowledge. Their goal is attractive displays that catch the
attention of visitors and quickly tell a story that people of
all ages and backgrounds can understand.
- Production Division – Craftsmen who construct
brackets and mounting devices.
Processing Unit – Specialists transport
objects from storage to destination, clean and
conserve (restore, repair, preserve) artifacts,
photograph the artifacts and the installation
process, set up mannequins, and place artifacts
in the cases as well as other tasks as needed.
- Collections Information Services Unit – Museum
specialists who provide registrarial services to ensure that all
objects have accession numbers and are tagged properly.
- Conservation Unit – Conservators who make
sure that artifacts have the proper care and environment so that
they will be available to the public and to researchers many years
As explained by Dorothy Cochrane, Curator in the
Aeronautics Division, ten thematic exhibit stations will be placed
throughout the Center. The exhibit stations with display cases and
barrier systems will group aircraft or spacecraft according to the
themes listed below. Even the hanging aircraft will relate to the
stations and aircraft on the floor.
- Business Aviation
- General Aviation
- Commercial Aviation (25-27 aircraft models)
- Sport Aviation
- World War II Aviation
- Cold War Aviation
- Korean and Vietnam War Aircraft
- Modern Military Aviation
- Space Hangar Preview
- Pre-1920 Aviation
William Jacobs says that the exhibit stations and barrier systems
will be in sections that can be easily rearranged as needs change.
On opening day, 1050 meters (0.6 mile) of barrier trusses in 5-meter
(16-foot) lengths will be in place. Future plans call for three
to four kilometers (about 2 miles) of barriers.
A prototype of an exhibit station, with two of the three types
of display cases that will be used at the Udvar-Hazy Center, was
on display in Gallery 104 of the National Air and Space Museum on
the Mall from December 2002 to March 2003. This test installation
proved the concept, and only minor adjustments were needed to more
fully meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements.
|View of the prototype exhibit station for Pre-1920
Aircraft. The barrier around the Loudenslager
Laser 200 has two built-in seats for museum visitors, video
monitors, labels explaining the exhibit, and lighting fixtures.
Photo by Bill Doole
Within these exhibit stations, and throughout the Center, three
sizes of display cases will house smaller artifacts that require
special protection from the deteriorating effects of temperature,
humidity, light, and pollutants, or for their security. William
Jacobs says that the cases are designed to last at least 30 years,
even though they will be opened as needed to rearrange the displays.
It is imperative that the objects be presented in a way that is
meaningful to visitors, yet the cases must protect these valuable
and irreplaceable national treasures. The three types of cases,
and how they are being used, include:
These are large cases
(6 meters long, 3 meters high, 1 meter deep (240 inches X 120 inches
X 40 inches)). The first five cases will display artifacts from
- Aerial cameras
- Machine guns
- Commercial aircraft models
|A large storefront case can hold many objects,
including the furniture in this case for the Balloonamania exhibit.
Photo by Carl J. Bobrow, NASM
These cases are for clothing,
models, and other smaller-sized artifacts. The medium cases will
display artifacts from these collections:
- Vertical flight aircraft models
- General aviation aircraft models
- Women in the military
- Charles Lindbergh
- Air racing
- WWI aircraft models
- Hap Arnold
- Engen memorial
|Medium-size cases (edged in blue) can hold mannequins
and a number of other small objects. The panel to the right
of the case explains the overall theme of this prototype display
Photo by Bill Doole
Small mannequin cases
The smallest cases
will contain single objects, such as mannequins clad with aviation
or space clothing. On opening day, we will see the following artifacts
in these cases:
- Polish MiG-15 pilot uniform
- Amelia Earhart costume
- F-16 Gulf War pilot uniform
- SR-71 pilot/RF-4 pilot uniforms
- General Doolittle uniform
- General Eddie Rickenbacker uniform
- Rocket belt
After the Center opens in December 2003, more exhibit stations and
display cases will be added. New themes will include:
- Aircraft propellers
- Large reconnaissance cameras
- Large aircraft models
- Gun turrets
Curator Dorothy Cochrane tells us that cases, in general, are not
environmentally controlled. Much care has been given to the temperature,
humidity, and light throughout the Center, so few additional
control systems are needed. However:
- Fiber optical lighting is used in small cases to
avoid heating from light fixtures.
- Fluorescent light is used in the medium and large
cases since it is a cool light source.
- Cases will be sealed to keep insects out.
- Temperature will be controlled by air flow (fans),
but without heaters.
|Small mannequin cases, trimmed in red, will house
mannequins to display clothing, such as this early Army Air
Corps uniform. This case uses fiber optical lighting, which
keeps the inside cool.
Photo by Bill Doole
Dorothy also tells us that objects will be rotated
to avoid long exposures to light, temperatures, or gases that could
cause fading, particularly in paper and clothing.
Linda King, Exhibits Designer, explains that extremely light-sensitive
material will not be displayed until conservators have examined
the artifacts and taken measurements of the actual Udvar-Hazy lighting
– 10 foot-candles are the maximum
illumination permitted. Blue wool test strips will be placed
in each case to monitor the effects of light. Cases also will have
motion sensors – a visitor near a case will cause the interior
lights to turn on. When no one is around, lights will be off to
protect the artifacts.
In describing the storefront cases, Linda says that the shelves
are all glass so that light falls through from the light fixtures
at the top (with milkplex sheets to diffuse light) to the artifacts
on the bottom shelf. Switches control each row of lights so that
light levels can be adjusted to suit the contents.
|See how the lights illuminate artifacts from top
to bottom in this storefront case display of machine guns.
Photo by Carl J. Bobrow, NASM
Backlit transparencies with text and photos will
be placed next to each case to help visitors understand the overall
theme of the objects displayed (see medium-size case photo, above).
In each storefront case, 72 to 138 objects will be displayed in
"open storage." This system will ultimately allow the
Museum to relocate thousands of smaller objects from closed storage
environments. Although labels explaining the history of each item
will be more streamlined than at the museum downtown, according
to Linda King, each artifact will have an accession number, and
in the future visitors may be able to enter the numbers into a computer
terminal where they will find more in depth information (these terminals
will not be in place on opening day). In the database, each object
will also have a photo.
|These aircraft engine parts were keys to the development
of manned flight.
Photo by Douglas Dammann, NASM
Developing the layouts for the cases takes a lot
of care to ensure that the objects are presented in a manner that
challenges the visitors' understanding. Linda King uses the AutoCAD
computer program to design the layouts. She then places the artifacts
in a prototype case and has them photographed. When exhibit designers
and curators are satisfied with the way a case looks, that set of
objects is removed and packed for shipping to the Udvar-Hazy Center.
When the boxes arrive, the pictures will be used to help the museum
specialists quickly reassemble the displays in their final locations.
|The engine parts in this prototype storefront
case are carefully laid out and labeled. This photo will be
used to reassemble the display at the Udvar-Hazy Center.
Photo by Douglas Dammann, National Air and Space Museum
|Linda King (exhibit designer), Suzanne Lewis (curatorial assistant),
and Lillie Wiggins (collections staff member) are “using
a list and checking it twice” to ensure proper identification
of artifacts in the Balloonamania exhibit case and to record
Photo by Eric Long, NASM
A visit to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center will
be an education in the development, science, and beauty of the air
and space age. Visitors will find their time is well spent when
they stop and explore the displays in the exhibit stations and artifact
cases throughout the Center.
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