Behind the Scenes

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Wed, March 25 2015

Coming Soon: Discovery 3D!

Every week or two we see news of another museum digitizing its collection and making it accessible online. The Smithsonian is no exception, and efforts are under way across our campus to scan artifacts, works of art, documents, and films and put them on our websites. These projects take months if not years to complete, but it is our high priority to open the museums to visitors beyond our walls, and digitization is a key part of our strategy. The National Air and Space Museum, working closely with the Smithsonian’s central Digitization Program Office, already has made a pioneering step in this direction by scanning the iconic 1903 Wright Flyer in 3D and creating a number of “tours” that enable online visitors to examine the aircraft as a whole and take detailed looks at many of its features. We have just scanned Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis and are preparing the auxiliary content for online access.

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Space Shuttle Discovery
Tue, January 27 2015

Five Things I Learned While Curating Outside the Spacecraft: 50 Years of Extra-Vehicular Activity

At the height of the summer of 2013, when I was getting ready to go on maternity leave to have my second child, I found myself as the only curator signed on to an anniversary exhibition celebrating the first spacewalks done in 1965...Feeling a bit under qualified and overcommitted, I went on to find out just what it took to make something notional only 18 months ago into a beautifully vibrant reality. Here are some of the lessons I learned and proudest moments from this experience.

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Outside the Spacecraft: 50 Years of Extra-Vehicular Activity
Fri, January 23 2015

Horten Ho 229 V3 “Bat-Wing Ship,” January 2015 Update

Following months of preparation, members of the Collections Processing Unit moved the center section of the Horten Ho 229 V3* from the Paul E. Garber Restoration and Storage Facility to the Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar at the Udvar-Hazy Center last Friday.

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Horten at the Restoration Hangar
Tue, January 20 2015

Opening the Best Package Ever!

It was particularly timely that during the hustle and bustle of the 2014 holidays, I, along with curators Jennifer Levasseur and Cathleen Lewis, had a very special package to open for the very first time.

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Staff Examine OPS Cover
Tue, December 30 2014

Advising on the Star Trek Starship Enterprise

Who do you call when you need to know everything there is to know about the Star Trek starship Enterprise? As the curator for that artifact—the original 11-foot model used in filming the Star Trek television program that aired from 1966 until 1969—I’ve spent a lot of time thinking and learning about Star Trek. The Museum has a lot of source material to rely upon: the acquisition, restoration, and exhibit record for this artifact stands at more than 1000 pages (and growing). In fact, I hired an intern two summers ago just to create a comprehensive index for that record so that I could know, for certain, whether I had checked every relevant document in it when searching for an answer. That review of the Museum’s records was a part of the move of the model that I have been planning for several years.  

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Moving the Star Trek starship Enterprise Studio Model
Tue, December 16 2014

Tom Stafford’s Jingle Bells and Wally Schirra’s Harmonica

It is not unusual for astronauts who find themselves in space around December 25 to display a little holiday spirit. Gemini VI astronauts Tom Stafford and Wally Schirra were no exception.  

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Gemini 6 Jingle Bells
Tue, December 2 2014

Making Moves in Milestones

If you visit the Museum in Washington, DC, you may notice a few key objects have been removed from display. The last several weeks have been especially busy for our Collections Processing Unit. More than 15 objects have already been moved as part of the major renovation of the Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall—scheduled to open on the Museum’s 40th Anniversary in 2016. Recently, Sputnik 1, Explorer I, Pioneer 10, Mariner 2, and the Goddard Rockets have all been delicately removed from display and transported offsite to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center for conservation.

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Removing the Sputnik Replica
Sun, November 9 2014

Seeing Inside Neil Armstrong’s Spacesuit Using CT Scans

Museum staff recently transported Neil Armstrong’s Apollo 11 spacesuit to the National Museum of Natural History for a CT scan. Curator Cathleen Lewis shares her experience as one of those staff members and explains how CT scanning can help in preservation efforts.

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Armstrong's Spacesuit in CT Scanner
Thu, October 30 2014

#TBT Historical Research Center

Nothing says ‪#‎ThrowbackThursday‬ quite like Polaroids. Enjoy this look back at our Historical Research Center - an early predecessor to our Archives and Library, which was located in the Smithsonian's Arts and Industries Building. 

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National Air and Space Museum Historical Research Center
Tue, October 28 2014

More than Just a Map

You never know what you’ll uncover once you do a little digging. Museum Technician Tom Paone discovered something quite remarkable from what at first appeared to be a simple map.

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Colonel William F. Small Portrait