As an intern with the Aeronautics Department I had the chance to review and scan hundreds of color images from WWII. What particularly drew my attention were the images of women who served in the Navy’s reserve force, since at the time they were not allowed to serve their country through military enlistment to the same extent as men.
Things such as the Hope Diamond, the Star Spangled Banner, the Lansdowne portrait of George Washington, and Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis airplane are good examples—one-of-a-kind items, familiar to all, and widely known to reside at the Smithsonian. Also in this subset of signature objects is one of the most significant in the entire Smithsonian collection—the Wright Flyer, the world’s first airplane.
As we begin to take occupancy of our new home in the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center’s new wing, and begin the process of outfitting the Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar, we are faced with the daunting task of moving all of our equipment into the new spaces and setting up an environment which will be favorable to the preservation and restoration of our priceless artifacts for decades to come. This is likely to be a lengthy process but we have begun to deliver selected artifacts so that when the viewing area becomes accessible, visitors will be able to see examples of our gems in the rough. Each of these aircraft has been in storage at the Paul E. Garber Facility in Suitland, Maryland for years, where the Museum's restoration work had taken place for decades. These aircraft are seldom seen by the public, and are all in need of preservation or restoration treatments.
For a number of years now, the United States has set aside February and March to celebrate Black History Month and National Women’s History Month, respectively. While these commemorations are praiseworthy, they should not disguise the fact that they have been rather contentious culturally. Some would argue that it is insulting to African Americans to celebrate their history for only one month every year. In the case of women, National Women’s History Month has become a call to arms in an ongoing struggle for women’s rights, to ensure educational and economic opportunities for all women, and for ending violence against them.
If you’re looking for some online fun, try out several Web activities from our newest exhibition, The Barron Hilton Pioneers of Flight Gallery. The exhibition introduces some of the colorful aviation personalities from the 1920s and 1930s.
In 1909, military aviation began with the purchase of the Wright Military Flyer by the U.S. Army. The Navy sprouted wings two years later in 1911 with a number of significant firsts. The first U.S Navy officers were trained to fly, the Navy purchased its first airplanes from Glenn Curtiss and the Wrights, and sites for naval aircraft operations were established at Annapolis, Md., and at North Island, San Diego, Ca. But the most dramatic demonstration that the skies and the seas were now joined occurred on January 18, 1911, when Eugene Burton Ely made the first successful landing and take-off from a naval vessel.
Ever since our colleagues over at the National Zoo introduced their seven beautiful lion cubs to the public, some of the staff here at the National Air and Space Museum have been feeling a bit envious. Yes, we have priceless historic artifacts like the 1903 Wright Flyer and the Spirit of St. Louis; but lacking a single lion cub or even a panda, we do have something of a cuteness gap - we simply can't compete with the Zoo when it comes down to Cute.