View of a partial eclipse through eclipse viewing glasses

Collections

Collections

Engen Conservation Fellows Meghann Kozak (upper left), Arianna Carini (lower left), and Lauren Gottschlich (lower right) perform conservation work on Command Module Columbia in the Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar.

The National Air and Space Museum is known worldwide for its collection of rare and historically significant aircraft and spacecraft, as well as its thousands of related smaller artifacts and archival materials. These collections are cared for by a professional team of museum specialists, conservators, and archivists.

Object Collections

  • As of the end of FY 2017, the National Air and Space Museum holds 46,730 aviation artifacts, 17,147 space-related artifacts, and 5,447 works of art.
  • The Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia was given a thorough conservation treatment in preparation for its two year, four city tour in the Destination Moon traveling exhibition.
  • 3D scanning of Space Shuttle Discovery was completed, a major effort that spanned over two years.
  • The Collections Processing Unit continued the multi-year task of moving items out of the Paul E. Garber Preservation, Restoration, and Storage Facility to the Udvar-Hazy Center for storage or display. In FY 2017, they relocated more than 4,412 objects and created over 3,500 digital images of artifacts.
  • The Preservation and Restoration Unit began work treating numerous artifacts for the Museum’s upcoming transformation of the location in Washington, DC (see Spotlight below). They treated and readied 10 large artifacts for display.
  • The Conservation Unit was awarded a Collections Care and Preservation Fund grant for the conservation of 120 artifacts requiring immediate stabilization treatments.
  • Major acquisitions in FY 2017 included a Sopwith F.1 Camel, the VanDersarl Blériot, a Sikorsky X2 Technology Demonstrator Helicopter, and a prototype speckle interferometer camera system.

Archival Collections

  • With 17,842 cubic feet of material, including two million photographs, more than 20,000 motion picture and video items, 16,000 reels of microfilm, and two million technical drawings, the Museum’s Archives is one of the world’s premier locations for research into the history of aviation and space exploration.
  • During FY17, Archives staff handled over 3,000 requests for information and/or for copies of documents, drawings, and technical information from the collections. The staff also assisted 603 visiting researchers. 
  • In FY 2017, the Archives digitized over 800 aircraft technical drawings, 17,501 pages of aircraft technical manuals, 55.5 hours of videotape. The Archives now has 133 collection finding aids on the Smithsonian Online Virtual Archive (SOVA) and has over 8,000 digital assets from the Gale Cengage Digitization Project available to the public via SOVA. 
  • Major acquisitions in the Archives included:
    • Materials relating to the career of Geraldyn “Jerrie” M. Cobb, consisting of a mix of her early flying career, her potential astronaut project (FLATS/Mercury 13), and her Amazonian humanitarian flights
    • Five cubic feet of material relating to Danford Toan and architectural firm Warner, Burns, Toan and Lunde’s design work for the Grumman Corporation space station bid, 1963-1986
    • Seven cubic feet of material related to the Reading Air Show, one of the best known and attended air shows nationwide.

Spotlight

Chris Reddersen and Tony Carp
& preparing for the Museum’s transformation

Museum specialists Chris Reddersen (left) and Tony Carp (right) work on the restoration of the Lincoln-Standard H.S. in the Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar. 

Although the plans to transform our location in Washington, DC, were announced just a few months ago, National Air and Space Museum staff have been working hard for the past few years to lay the groundwork for this major project. One key part of this project is preparing the artifacts that will fill our reimagined exhibition spaces.

The amount of detail and care that goes into preparing each artifact for display is apparent in the work of museum specialists Chris Reddersen and Tony Carp on the Lincoln-Standard H.S. biplane. The aircraft, which will be displayed in the America by Air exhibition, is one of the first large artifacts to undergo restoration as part of our transformation of the DC museum.

The Lincoln-Standard will be going through a transformation of its own, as our restoration team works to turn back the clock and present it as it would have looked early in its service life.

This is no easy task. Following a service life of more than 40 years, our Lincoln-Standard underwent a restoration years before it entered our collection, but sub-par, bewildering, or, in some cases, dangerous repairs performed to key structural components remain. In fact, the left lower wing contains period repairs made with wood from an apple crate! During the restoration process, tattered fabric, period-incorrect components, and any underlying structural issues will need to be remedied. Despite these challenges, a lot of progress has been made in the last year.

To date, work has been progressing rapidly on the rudder and vertical fin; damaged or rotted wood has been replaced; corroded metal components have been treated and repainted; and the whole structure has received fresh coats of protective varnish. The team has also been manufacturing jigs and refining their methods for fabricating bent-wood components such as wing tip bows and rib cap strips. This careful preparatory work has allowed Reddersen and Carp to begin manufacturing replacement parts with near production-line efficiency.

While the team is pleased with their current rate of progress, there is still more to be done, and work will continue as they ready the Lincoln-Standard H.S. for its big debut in the America by Air gallery.