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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
Sat, October 17 2009

Fly Now! Making the National Air and Space Museum's Poster Collection Accessible, Online

As mentioned in Dom Pisano’s recent post “From Collecting to Curating,” six interns, including myself, and two volunteers (with our supervisor, enough for a baseball team!) photographed, scanned and catalogued much of the museum’s collection of over 1,300 posters at the Paul E. Garber Facility's collections processing unit this summer. It sounds like a lot of posters, but you may not have seen any of them, unless you have a great memory of advertisements you glimpsed in airports over the years while running to catch your plane.

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Mon, October 5 2009

A Beautiful Bird Grounded

Concorde service came to an end in 2003 when British Airways made the last commercial Concorde flight from New York to London. 

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Concorde at the Udvar-Hazy Center
Fri, September 25 2009

Fourteen Days on “The Moon” in Arizona

It’s a quarter of a million miles to the Moon, we’ve got fully charged batteries, half a pack of space food, it’s daytime, and we’re wearing spacesuits. Hit it.

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Planetary Geologist Brent Garry on Desert RATS Field Mission
Mon, September 14 2009

From Collecting to Curating

The Museum-going public doesn’t often get the opportunity to observe the work that goes on behind the scenes in a museum. The National Air and Space Museum’s poster collection is a case in point. The items in this collection, which range from notices for early aviation exhibitions to commercial airline advertising, were collected over many years. It is only recently, however, that the posters have been curated; i.e., cared for as a collection. 

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Fly The Finest Fly Trans World Airlines
Tue, September 8 2009

This Android is no Dummy

First of all there is a question of just what to call this device. Is it a “dummy”? That’s what its creators called it sometimes, but that sounds too pejorative and does not give credit to its complexity. Is it a “robot”? That’s what it looks like. Or is it an “android,” defined by the dictionary as “an automaton made to resemble a human being”?

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Spacesuit Android at the Udvar-Hazy Center

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