By all the measures we use to judge success at the National Air and Space Museum, 2015 was a great year. Two new exhibitions opened, both to critical acclaim. Educational activities have increased at both Museum locations: at any given time during public hours an educational program is taking place at one or both of our buildings. We published several books and participated in significant discoveries on other planets; among these was a study linking Earth’s gravitational forces to the shrinking of the Moon. We acquired major collections including objects and documents belonging to astronaut Sally Ride and futurist Arthur C. Clarke. Perhaps the most significant achievements were in the area of outreach. Through expanding broadcast and webcast activities, we are enabling people everywhere to share in the Museum’s mission. Over 9,400 people shared in the museum’s mission through the first-ever Smithsonian Kickstarter campaign. The Museum raised over $700,000 to conserve and display both Neil Armstrong’s Apollo 11 and Alan Shepherd’s Mercury spacesuits.
With higher attendance at both of our public buildings, especially at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, and increased outreach, one may think we are poised to stay the course in the years ahead. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
In addition to all of the activities you will read about in the pages ahead, we are laying the groundwork for major changes in our 40-year-old flagship building. Transformation of the Museum has begun: architects and engineers are at work on building Revitalization plans, curators and designers are developing future exhibitions for the “new” Museum, and collections specialists are moving artifacts to make way for construction. The most pressing reason for the multi-year project is structural: the stone tiles that make up the building’s facade are deteriorating and replacement is essential. In addition, aging mechanical systems must be replaced. The result of these efforts will be a building that meets or exceeds best-practice standards for sustainability and energy use. But there will be an even bigger bonus: the opportunity to refresh, redevelop, and replace outdated exhibitions. The model for our new approach to exhibitions is the Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall, which will open on our 40th anniversary, July 1, 2016. The new installation will combine the icons for which we are famous along with a stunning interactive media wall, a new museum app and other state-of-the-art features designed to deliver stories and information about aviation and space directly to the visitor, in the hall and beyond our walls.
Although some organizations close during projects as complex as Revitalization and Transformation, we will remain open to the public. The activities we presented during 2015 will serve as a model of just how much we can accomplish in the decade ahead, even as we move forward with Revitalization and Transformation.
As you will learn in the pages ahead, our current campaign has been very successful and we are laying the foundation for the future. We look forward to serving people of all ages, within and beyond our walls, now and in the years ahead.
J. R. “Jack” Dailey
John and Adrienne Mars Director