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Behind the Scenes

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Thu, May 12 2016

A New Home for an Old Glove

What makes a tattered and torn glove worthy of collecting? When it once belonged to the third highest scoring ace in aviation history Günther Rall. The glove (with its thumb visibly damaged from a 1944 air raid in whichRall was hit in the left hand by gun fire), a painted portrait of Rall as a prisoner of war, and his diary from 1942 were all recently donated to the Museum.

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Wed, May 4 2016

A "Box of Time" in the Time and Navigation Exhibition

In our exhibition Time and Navigation visitors can set their watches by a working cesium frequency standard, commonly known as an "atomic clock." Before the clock was installed, we needed the frequency standard to be calibrated to the national reference time at the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington, DC.

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Thu, April 14 2016

Volunteers Help Keep Museum Objects Clean

When visitors enter our Museum, many are awed by the number of artifacts that are on display. We’re often asked, “How do you manage to keep everything clean?” That is a terrific question, especially since there are more than 6,000 artifacts on display at any time on the floor or hanging overhead, with more being added each year. Cleaning and inspecting the artifacts is critical to preserving the Museum’s collection.

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Fri, April 1 2016

Tribble Trial Trends Toward Trouble

Stardate 1604.01: At 12:01 am EDT this morning, the National Air and Space Museum began breeding tribbles. This bold, innovative, not-at-all-ill-advised experiment will run for 24 hours, until 11:59 pm tonight, allowing Museum specialists to study the galaxy’s most adorable ecological disaster in greater detail than ever before.

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Thu, March 3 2016

Investigating the Writing on Columbia’s Walls

I recently shared that we uncovered handwritten notes and markings inside the Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia—the spacecraft that carried astronauts Armstrong, Collins, and Aldrin into lunar orbit and home on their historic voyage of July 1969. As part of our collaboration with the Smithsonian’s Digitization Program Office to create a detailed 3D model of the spacecraft, we had access to previously inaccessible areas for the first time in many years. We found notes written on a number of locker doors and even a small calendar used to check off days of the mission. We did our best to imagine the circumstances surrounding the creation of these markings. In the weeks that have passed, I have been working with an extraordinary team of experts to see what we can learn about each of the markings we documented, especially the more technical numerical entries. Today, we are posting the Apollo Flight Journal (AFJ) website, a detailed account of all the information we’ve gathered so far.

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Thu, February 11 2016

Apollo 11: The Writings on the Wall

Last year I wrote about the Armstrong purse, discovered by Neil Armstrong’s widow, Carol, in their home shortly after Neil’s death in 2012. That stowage bag of small (but historically significant) items from the first lunar landing was a reminder that the story of Apollo 11 continues to be told as new details emerge in unexpected places. Recently, we have again been reminded that a curator’s work is never done. During the course of a project to produce a detailed 3D model of the Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia, we were able to observe and record some hand-written notes and markings in areas of the spacecraft that have been hidden from view for more than 40 years.

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Sun, February 7 2016

From the Archives: Celebrating a Super Helmet

Through the history of aviation, pilots have worn many types of helmets.  Exhibits at the National Air and Space Museum range from Paul Studenski's 1912 era leather flying helmet, to Apollo Soucek's furry helmet, to Mike Melvill's SpaceShipOne helmet. Today, however, in honor of Super Bowl 50, we will remember Robert "Bob" Eucker's football helmet.

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Thu, February 4 2016

Conserving a WWII Black Widow Compressor

The Museum has been tackling a variety of artifact treatments through its Collections Care and Preservation Fund (CCPF) Triage Project. The goal of the project is to stabilize artifacts as they are moved from the Paul E. Garber Preservation, Restoration, and Storage Facility to state-of-the-art storage located at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. The triage project addresses urgent issues affecting artifacts such as active corrosion, pest infestation, biological growth, and physical insecurities.

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Thu, January 28 2016

USS Enterprise Conservation Begins Phase II

Stardate 1601.28: After a year of extensive research, conservation work on the original studio model of the USS Enterprise is now underway in the Museum’s spacedock.

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Mon, January 4 2016

Models on the Move: Rehousing 800+ Models from the Collection

You may be surprised to know that in addition to the largest collection of authentic aviation- and space-related artifacts in the world, our Museum also has an impressive model collection. Our model collection contains more than 5,700 models of aircraft, balloons, and more. Nearly 1,100 of those models are on display at our Museum and the rest are in storage. Approximately 800 of those models share space with our staff on the third floor of the Museum in Washington, DC. But not for much longer. Last June, we began the time-consuming process of relocating the models from the third floor to storage at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. The move was brought on by a multi-year project at the Museum in DC to upgrade the exterior of the building and the interior mechanical systems. Before construction begins, the models need to be moved. How do you relocate more than 800 delicate models?

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