Virtual Vacation

Posted on Tue, May 13, 2014

As people start making their summer vacation plans, I often daydream about traveling around the world.  Then I realize that I don’t even need to leave the office to see far off places.  The National Air and Space Museum Archives' photography collection allows me to travel anywhere (and almost any time in the past 100 or so years)! My virtual vacation begins with the pyramids in Giza, Egypt, in 1926.

The Pyramids at Giza

<p> The Pyramids at Giza, 29 May 1926. Great Pyramid of Khufu (left) and the pyramids of Khefren (center) and Menkaure (right). Smaller tombs, known as mustabas, can be seen in front of Khefren and the Mena House grounds appear in the foreground. NASM-00191905.</p>

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Then I cross the Mediterranean Sea to Italy's Mount Vesuvius. When photographer and balloonist Edgar Mix visited in August 1903, he observed a minor volcanic eruption.

Mount Vesuvius

 Minor eruption of Mount Vesuvius, Italy, August 1903. Mix-09-08.


  Moving inland, I make my way to the capital city of Rome and the independent city-state of the Vatican, where I view St. Peter’s Square and Basilica from a dirigible.

Vatican City

<p> St. Peter’s Square and Basilica, Vatican City. NASM-00192315.</p>

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  Desiring some excellent croissants and wine, I fly to Paris, France.  I arrive on 17 August 1910 to witness Alfred Leblanc circling the Eiffel Tower to celebrate his Circuit de l’Est win.

Eiffel Tower

<p> Monoplane piloted by Alfred Leblanc passing the Eiffel Tower, Paris, 17 August 1910, at the conclusion of the Circuit de l'Est. Library of Congress Technical Reports and Standards Unit, L'Aerophile Collection. NASM-2001-11721.</p>

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  I almost get lost on my way to 1916 Petrograd, Russia, forgetting that St. Petersburg was renamed in 1914 during WWI and then again as Leningrad in 1924, before returning to St. Petersburg in 1991.

Petrograd, Russia

<p> Petrograd (now St. Petersburg), Russia, 1916, showing the River Neva, a bridge, and river traffic. NASM-90-8292.</p>

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I then put on my jacket as I join the 1898 Wellman Polar Expedition to Franz Josef Land, not that far south of the North Pole.

Cape Tegetthoff

 View of the rock needles of Cape Tegetthoff (Mys Tegetkhoff), Hall Island (Ostrov Gallya), Franz Josef Land (Zemlya Frantsa-Iosifa). NASM-9A10680.


Needing to warm up, I zip down to India, to visit the Taj Mahal with late National Air and Space Museum deputy director Don Lopez.

Taj Mahal

 Taj Mahal, Agra, India, photographed by Don Lopez in 1944. NASM-82-4660.


  Then, taking my cues from Barry Manilow, I sunbathe at the Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janiero, Brazil.

Rio de Janeiro

 Fairchild C-119 Flying Boxcar flies low over Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 20 November 1957, as part of the Operation Long Legs South American Goodwill Flights. NASM-9A00733.


  Continuing my beach theme, I pass over Bermuda.


 Flatts Village, Bermuda. NASM-00192327.


 Finally, I return home to Washington, DC.  But wait!  It's 1897 and William A. Eddy and Edward Herbert Young are standing on the lawn controlling a tandem of nine “Eddy kites” with a suspended camera to photograph the Capitol Building.

Capitol HIll

 Photograph of Capitol Hill, Washington, DC, taken by William A. Eddy with the assistance of Edward Herbert Young, using a camera suspended from a tandem line of nine Eddy Kites, September 1897. NASM-00181714.


  And then it’s back to the future and back to work!  Enjoy your summer vacations—real or imagined—wherever they may take you!