When I arrived at the National Air and Space Museum 18 years ago, it was already the most visited museum in the country. At the time, we were engaged in the early stages of our most ambitious project since we opened in 1976: the construction of the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. The Museum is once again preparing for a great project to expand the scope and reach of America’s favorite museum. But preparations to revitalize and transform our home on the National Mall haven’t stopped us from fulfilling our mission to educate and inspire the world with the history of flight. As you’ll see in the pages ahead, 2017 was a banner year at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.
More than 8.6 million guests passed through our doors in 2017, maintaining our position as one of the most visited museums in the world. And what awaited them at both of our locations was an experience unlike anything else on Earth. We’ve captured some of those experiences in this report.
As you peruse these pages, we will introduce you to our staff, truly the heart and soul of our Museum. Our exhibition teams put together new galleries that tell unique and captivating stories. Our restoration specialists work to prepare artifacts for display in our transformed museum. Our educators engage our visitors both in the building and beyond our walls. Our curators, archivists and researchers provide context for historical and current events and work to unlock the mysteries of the universe. And that’s just a cross section of the men and women who make our mission a reality. You’ll meet a few of those remarkable people in this report.
2017 marked my final year as the John and Adrienne Mars Director of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. Over the last 18 years, I have watched the Museum and its staff evolve to meet the challenges of engaging 21st century audiences and work to help build a nation of innovators and explorers who will achieve new aerospace milestones to be enshrined in our halls. I could not be more proud to have been a part of this team. I know they are up to the work of reimagining this great American institution in the coming years, while remaining open for business for our millions of annual guests. And I will be there when they complete the task, but not as Director. I will join the multitudes of visitors who will crowd these halls, to be among the first to experience the brand new Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, and to be inspired once again by the good work of the people who made it possible. You can catch a glimpse of that work now, in the pages of this report.
J. R. “Jack” Dailey
John and Adrienne Mars Director
February 2, 2018