Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

Director's Message

On almost all fronts, from research to programs to care of the collection, 2011 was a transitional year for the Museum. From announcing the next Mars landing site to recreating a 19th century balloon ascension to teaching children about the solar system to moving entire collections from one location to another, we accomplished a wide variety of things last year, most of them reflecting new initiatives and future objectives.

Two new program series were introduced. Super Science Saturdays, a monthly series for youngsters, blasted off with a session on the space shuttle at the Udvar-Hazy Center. The Smithsonian Stars series shines the spotlight on staff scientists who share their research findings in evening lectures in the Washington, DC building, followed by star-gazing in the observatory. Different age groups, different locations, but both series reflect new directions: increased emphasis on the STEM disciplines - science, technology, engineering and math - and expanded public programming focusing on planetary research.

In the area of exhibitions, we broadened our approach to include more visual arts offerings. The Museum holds an extensive collection of aviation and space-related art which was supplemented by NASA to produce NASA Art/50 Years of Exploration, an exhibition which drew a great deal of public interest. Two additional exhibits featuring images of the solar system and photographs of jets were also presented. To expand our reach further, we worked with Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service to produce Suited for Space, which combines information on the Museum's spacesuit collection with extraordinary images taken by staff photographers.

The most far-reaching transition - one which will continue over the next few years - is the move of collections and collection operations to the Udvar-Hazy Center. The art collection was moved and installed in its new facility in April. The Archives Division undertook a meticulously planned and executed move of thousands of documents, photographs, and film and video materials in the fall and are now at home in a more spacious, modern facility, well equipped for researchers. Move of the spacesuit collection began at year's end and the relocation of restoration operations to the Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar at the Udvar-Hazy Center is the next major project on the drawing board.

Although these activities and the many others contained in this report took place in different locations and involved different staff teams and audiences, they benefitted from private sector funding. Without the help provided by organizations and individuals, the Museum would not achieve its goals, and would not be able to plan for the future. We are grateful for this all-important support.

J.R. Dailey
Museum Director