The Preservation and Restoration Unit (PRU) has the challenge of restoring and maintaining the vast and varied collection of NASM’s aviation and space-related artifacts. Using both cutting-edge and time-honored techniques, teams of specialists work across multiple disciplines to prepare an artifact for display.
Each project is carefully assessed and researched to balance the requirements of preservation and restoration and to determine the scope of the work. Projects can vary from structural repairs in wood and metal, to fully repainting and stenciling aircraft, to rebuilding operational systems. PRU staff use a blend of period-correct techniques and tools, modern Computer Aided Design (CAD) and Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM) capabilities to complete each project.
Comprehensive treatment is only one step in the preparation; next the artifact must be prepared for either ground or suspended display. Ground display requires the design and fabrication of specialized apparatus to ensure safe support. This may be as simple as strut collars to prevent landing gear from collapsing, or as complicated as specialized stands and carts. Suspended display requires the design, fabrication and installation of rigging fixtures that support the air and space artifacts – without compromising historical appearance or integrity. This rigorous balancing act incorporates artifact security, public safety and display aesthetics.
Visitors may observe the ongoing work in PRU in the Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar from the overlook in the Udvar-Hazy Museum.