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Sat, December 5 2009

Hidden Gems

While hunting for images of navigators in World War II, a series appeared which, although completely distant from my topic, still grabbed my attention.  They were pictures of a military funeral.  These pictures were unique, however, because they were not showing the solemn burial of a soldier, airmen, or sailor; they were showing the burial of a unit mascot.

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Hedron 12 Funeral for Mascot "Skippy"
Tue, December 1 2009

From Earth to Mars: Studying Climate Change in Antarctica

I first became fascinated with glaciers during two summer seasons in Alaska while working on a cruise ship as a harpist. I would perform in a lounge at the top of the ship surrounded by windows and would watch in awe as we sailed past glaciers in Glacier Bay National Park as I performed.

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Maria Banks
Fri, November 20 2009

Ultralights Are for the Birds

Add wildlife conservation to the growing list of special jobs that only ultralight aircraft can do. Right now, a volunteer group called Operation Migration is using Cosmos Phase II ultralights to lead a flock of endangered whooping cranes on the first migration of their young lives, from Wisconsin to Florida. The excellent control and performance of the ultralight at speeds much slower than more conventional aircraft makes this possible. After months of intensive training, the Operation Migration staff have trained the birds to follow the ultralight as though it were another crane.

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Operation Migration Ultralight with Whooping Cranes
Wed, November 11 2009

The Envelope, Please

Balancing access and preservation is a continuous problem in every archive. The Museum’s Archives Division’s mandate is two-fold; to make collections accessible for researchers, and to preserve the collections for future generations. These two goals came into conflict while processing the Lee Ya-Ching Collection.

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Lee Ya-Ching, Stinson SR-9B Reliant
Fri, November 6 2009

Saving Jenny

The Smithsonian acquired its Jenny in 1918, only days after the Armistice ending World War I.  The airplane was re-covered in the 1920s, and remains completely original from that time.  The Museum's Jenny is one of the true jewels of the collection.  It has a particular place of pride in my curatorial responsibilities, and the whole museum staff has a great soft spot in our hearts for our Jenny.  When the opportunity to put it on display in the Mall museum presented itself with the building of the new commercial aviation exhibition, America by Air, a few years ago, I was delighted to make it available to the curator of the new gallery.  When the exhibition opened in 2007, it was a great success and the Jenny looked fabulous on its perch, drawing visitors toward America by Air.  A museum favorite finally was center stage for all to enjoy.

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Curtiss JN-4D Jenny in America by Air
Tue, November 3 2009

Another First for The Museum – Virtual Conferences

The National Air and Space Museum is holding its first ever virtual conference for educators on Tuesday, November 10 from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. EST.   Since we’re in the middle of the 40th anniversary commemorations of the Apollo missions, we decided to focus on this important period in American history.  Staff from our Division of Space History will discuss some fascinating topics such as the real story behind President Kennedy’s famous speech challenging Congress to send Americans to the Moon;  the role of computers—a new technology in the 1960s; the myth of presidential leadership during this time period; the intersections of Ralph Abernathy, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Moon landing; the rise of six iconic Apollo images and how they have been used over time; and the denials of the Moon landings by a small segment of the population and their evolution since the 1960s. 

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Apollo 16, Astronaut John Young
Sat, October 31 2009

Tricking and Treating in the Collection

Cecil “Teddy” Kenyon (1905-1985), on the left, and her husband Theodore "Ted" Whitman Kenyon (1899-1978) were a flying family – when they weren’t trick-or-treating, as this 1940s photograph from their collection in the Museum’s Archives Division shows.

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Teddy & Ted Kenyon in Halloween Costumes
Wed, October 28 2009

Hiding in Plane Sight

At this time of year when apparitions and fanciful creatures stroll sidewalks in search of treats, it’s a good time to remember that not all aircraft are what they seem.

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Curtiss P-40 Warhawk Decoy
Wed, October 21 2009

Runaway Balloons

The afternoon of October 15, 2009 was one of those rare moments when Americans from coast-to-coast were riveted to their television sets by a news story unfolding in real time.  Six year old Falcon Heene was reported to be trapped aboard a helium balloon floating across the Colorado landscape at 7000 feet. The image on the screen was surreal, a strange craft looking like a cross between a Mylar grocery store balloon and a flying saucer, with a small circular structure on the bottom that appeared to be just large enough to house a small child. When the balloon came naturally to earth after a fifty mile flight, however, the boy was not aboard.

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Marth and David Harvey After Rescue from Runaway Balloon

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